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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

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Superb sweet peas

Posted by Graham Rice on 04 Apr 2009 at 04:29 PM

Sweet pea 'Erewhon'. Image: Keith HammettKeith Hammett is one of the world’s leading flower breeders, and I’m delighted to say that a wide range of his sweet peas is now available in Britain for the first time. His talents are many - last week he was awarded the Cory Cup by the RHS for his innovative work breeding new dahlias - now you can buy his unique sweet peas.

The first to cross our familiar sweet pea with other species, Keith used Lathyrus belinensis (discovered in Turkey only in 1987) hoping to work towards a yellow sweet pea. Surprisingly, the result was the creation of reverse bicolours  with darker lower petals (the wings) instead of the usual darker upper petals. He’s also created flowers with a more intense blue colouring.

Sweet pea 'Blue Shift'. Image: Keith HammettTake a look at the Seed N Grow sweet pea webpage and Keith Hammett’s own sweet pea webpage for pictures of all the varieties.

Seed N Grow are now listing thirteen of Keith’s varieties but unfortunately they’re selling them under new names! The result is that they’re available from Keith in New Zealand under his original names and from Seed N Grow under their new names. The lovely pink and blue reverse bicolour ‘Erewhon’ (above), is also available in Britain under its original name.

Now, a lot of this name changing goes on in the seed trade and over the years I’ve upset (but remained friends with!) a lot of people when I’ve complained about this in print or online. But Alan Leslie, Chair of the RHS Advisory Committee on Nomenclature and Taxonomy told me: “Clarity and consistency in naming is essential if we want to be able refer to plants unambiguously. Renaming plants merely causes confusion and misunderstanding, breaking the link with information about their origins and causing uncertainty about identities.”

Sweet pea 'Blue Vein'. Image: Keith HammettBe that as it may, these are superb sweet peas. I’d especially suggest you try what Seed N Grow call ‘Mama Mia’, the unique reverse bicolour (above), ‘Royalty’, in orange with blue veins, and ‘Mother of Pearl’ which opens in mauve shades and changes to vivid blues. These are correctly ‘Erewhon’, ‘Blue Vein’ and ‘Blue Shift’. ‘Erewhon’ is also available in Britain under its correct name from Owls Acre Sweet Peas.

Keith Hammett’s sweet peas represent an impressive step forward, it’s unfortunate that their naming is now becoming so confused. But don’t let that put you off.

‘Erewhon’ is available from Owls Acre sweet Peas

Take a look at Keith Hammett’s sweet peas available in Britain from Seed N Grow.

Take a look at Keith Hammett’s sweet peas on his own website.
 

Comments

Topics about Plants » Archive » Superb sweet peas said:

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on 04 Apr 2009 at 08:48 PM

Easton Walled Gardens said:

This is very interesting for us. We grow 60 varieties each year in a relaxed way, mostly for the public to see them and to choose our favourite garden worthy sweet peas. We will definitely give these a try. Many thanks

on 04 Apr 2009 at 09:24 PM

Graham Rice said:

I've grown some of his earlier varieties like 'North Shore' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' but not most of these newer ones so I too am looking forward to seeing them flower this summer.

on 05 Apr 2009 at 09:17 AM

Swarm said:

Graham,

Whilst obtaining seed varieties for www.sweet-peas.com I acquired a quantity of "Hammett Violet". I've tried to find more information on them (including in your book) but have drawn a blank. I'm reluctant to list them for sale as I don't wish to mislead anyone.

Could this be an example of the above-mentioned renaming, or might somebody have named a variety after Dr Hammett?

Andy Sheriff

Just Sweet Peas Ltd

on 23 Mar 2010 at 06:30 PM

Graham Rice said:

Andy - I'm replying privately.

on 23 Mar 2010 at 06:50 PM