Sweet pea flowers, which are native to eastern regions of the Mediterranean, are of a genus of flowering plants called lathyrus, and come from the family fabaceae – or the legume family. The delicate fragrance of sweet pea flowers has always been one of the highlights of these plants; however, they are also well known for their dainty, brightly-hued appearance. These flowers are annual climbing plants that, when given a proper structure to grow on, can reach heights of 6 to 9 feet, or 8 to 20 inches in the dwarf varieties. Although the wild grown types only appear in a bright shade of purple, the many cultivars come in shades of pink, white, and lavender – amongst others.
The cultivation of sweet pea flowers began in the 17th century; however, their growth and hybridization has continued all the way through to today. Henry Eckford created a splash during the late Victorian era when, in 1882, he first introduced his sweet pea cultivar, the Bronze Prince. He later went on to introduce at least 115 cultivars, and was awarded a medal of honor for all he had done. In 1901, Silas Cole – who was the head gardener to the Earl of Spencer – discovered a natural mutation and called this flower the multiflora. In more recent years, Dr. Keith Hammett of New Zealand began to successfully breed newer forms of the sweet pea flower. These changes consist of different growth patterns, stripping, and stronger scents for each blossom. Sweet peas have made only a few appearances in folklore, but they are sometimes considered to be a lucky plant, and are often tied in with St. Patrick’s day. People once thought that if you planted these flowers before sunrise on this particular holiday, not only will you be lucky, but your flowers will grow abundantly and become extra fragrant.
Given the fact that sweet pea flowers are not only lovely to look at, but last long after being clipped, these flowers are frequently given as gifts. Fragrant and dainty, these blossoms are often considered symbols of delicate or blissful pleasures and good fortune. They are also occasionally associated with bittersweet farewells, and are sometimes given to new brides by her parents. Although many people like to create gift baskets with sweet pea themed items like lotions, soaps and perfumes, many others prefer to give a simple – but overflowing – basket of the flowers by themselves. The smaller varieties may be given as potted houseplants, while any type may be clipped and placed into a bouquet or given as a single flower.