December 09 2020
A garden is not just a garden to me. It is not just some tomatoes and corn to eat or some trees and flowers to fill my yard. It is a constant reminder that the world is an incredibly beautiful place and we are blessed to be alive. And when things are not going so well, and dark clouds loom, it is a daily reminder that I have the ability to create something wonderful. It is solace and comfort in a troubled world. It is also the best teacher I’ve ever known.
Gardening has taught me patience-long, long, wait two years for something to bloom sort of patience. Or ten years for that tree to shade your porch.
It’s taught me acceptance. There’s no way on earth that every plan and hope I have for my gardens will turn out as expected. For starters, the weather is often quite uncooperative in Montana. There’s late spring frosts and early fall frosts or both. There’s wind, frequent wind, that beats on my flowers and topples over trees and breaks branches. We do the best we can, but nature prevails.
Gardening has taught me the value of persistence, to keep trying and don’t give up. One flower I tried and tried to grow with minimal success is sweet peas. I kept trying different things until I found one that works. And then I became enamored with sweet peas.
Don’t confuse sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) with garden peas (Pisum sativum) as the beautiful smelling sweet peas are toxic and should not be eaten. Also, not all sweet peas have the delightful aromas of the heirlooms. There is a perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) that are not fragrant and are bright pink. Don’t eat them either!
It is indeed a gift to walk out my door and be surrounded by the teeming life of my garden. You could say it’s a gift I gave myself-in collaboration with nature of course-but sweet peas certainly wouldn’t be growing in my gardens without human intervention. They are native to Sicily and southern Italy and came to England in the 17th century via a Sicilian monk named Cupani. We can grow Cupani sweet peas in our gardens today over 300 years later. It would boggle the mind to follow the long and twisted paths that plants took to end up in your yards. Wondrous gift indeed!
As for growing those delightful sweet peas, I plant mine several weeks before it’s time to plant outside in peat pots, after soaking the seeds overnight. They like cool spring weather, rich soil, full sun and a trellis or wire panel to climb. Put a chair nearby, you’ll want to sit and soak up that aroma. And learn joy, there’s that, too.