The sweet pea trial at Wisley is always a big attraction to visitors – and the fragrance is often as powerful as the colour is enticing. But it’s not just an attractive display, it’s a serious trial with the expert sweet pea judges assessing the entries for both use in the garden and for exhibition.
Just one new variety was considered of sufficiently high standard to be awarded an Award of Garden Merit this year - ‘John Gray’ (left, click top enlarge). Raised by Roger Parsons, holder of the National Collection of Sweet Peas, its large, boldly waved flowers are pale pink shading to white at the base.
Roger told me about his new award-winning sweet pea: “'John Gray' is remarkable in being exceptionally good both for garden decoration and for cut flowers. Growth is vigorous and it flowers prolifically so that a clump of plants in the garden is covered in blooms. It has exceptionally large flowers and long stems for cutting.
“Larger petals are generally more prone to weather damage,’ he added, “but 'John Gray' has good petal texture to resist this.”
Named for the father of a Roger Parsons customer, who simply loved gardening, not only did ‘John Gray’ receive an AGM last year, but it also received an Award of Merit for Exhibition following the trial at Wisley in 2007.
The panel of judges also assessed sweet peas given an AGM in earlier years to be sure that they continued to perform at AGM standard. For one variety, the news was not good. ‘Florencecourt’, given an AGM in 1997, was disappointing. Not only was there noticeable variation in the colour of the flowers on display but it was known that a completely incorrect variety was being sold under this name. So it was recommended that its AGM be withdrawn.
Four other older varieties were also checked carefully but these were considered to still be of AGM standard. These were ‘Evening Glow’, the very popular ‘Gwendoline’ (left), 'Toby Robinson’ and ‘White Supreme’ – which gained its AGM as long ago as 1994.
Seed of sweet pea ‘John Gray is available only from Roger Parsons.