Sweet Pea Almost Black (Lathyrus odorata) is one of the darkest varieties available and makes an amazing addition to summer borders or large pots. However, if dark sweet peas aren't to your taste, why not have a look at the pastel varieties we have in our sweet pea range? Bred by New Zealand's legendary sweet pea breeder Keith Hammett, it really lives up to its name - like most sweet peas, it is not one colour, but a fabulous blend of dark maroon shading to near-black, with the base of the petals lightly splashed with purple. The blooms really change colour depending on which light they're viewed in but the velvety texture remains, enhancing the intensity of the dark hues.
Almost Black is a Modern Grandiflora, which means it has the best of all sweet pea types - larger flowers than the old heritage varieties, produced in profusion, with the long stems of the Spencer blooms and the scent of ancestral varieties such as Matucana. Its fragrance is truly stunning, very sweet and strong, so make sure to plant them where they can be appreciated. Although the flower size is not as big as some Modern Grandifloras (the petals are unwaved, more like a slightly larger antique variety), this seems to add to the blooms' overall appeal, as the colour intensity isn't diluted.
Such an unusual sweet pea deserves to be shown off to its best, so grow it with other contrasting pale varieties to enhance its depth of colour. White and cream sweet peas such as Cathy, Mrs Collier and White Supreme, available in our sweet pea collection are perfect to grow together up an obelisk, wigwam or canes near the front of the border, so you can appreciate the contrast and amazing scents. Likewise, if you're growing Almost Black as a cut flower, mix them with lighter varieties or with a light vase to get the best effect. One thing not to do is plant them on their own near the back of a border with other dark colours - the subtlety of the blooms - and the sweet perfume - will be lost.
If you've never grown sweet peas before, don't worry, our strong root-trained seedlings come with full instructions and will be sent out to you at just the right time. A top tip is to remember they are true climbers, using tendrils to cling on to their supports, whether cane wigwams, nets or obelisks. They need some encouragement to reach their supports at first, so be sure to tie them in with twine. If you want to grow Almost Black as a cut flower, you need to ensure that its long stems stay straight, so gently snip off any tendrils that are growing around blooms. Tie plants in with string if necessary to ensure they aren't battered by winds.
Sweet pea Almost Black is also suitable for growing in large pots but do bear in mind plants will need extra watering and a high-potash plant food (such as tomato fertiliser) to keep flowering throughout the season. Don't forget to keep deadheading faded flowers to make sure blooms keep forming - if seed pods are allowed to develop, the sweet pea's flowering mechanism will switch off. This is why it's a good idea to keep them within reach near the front of the border - the job is easier and you get to appreciate the flowers and fragrance.
Adding a drop of sugar water to the water of a vase of freshly cut sweet peas prolongs their life.
All members of the legume family, of which sweet peas are a member, have the ability to 'fix' nitrogen from the air in the soil so other plants can access it. At the end of the season, cut off the plants at ground level but leave the roots in the soil. Nodules on the roots contain nitrogen compounds (ammonia and nitrates), which will enrich your spoil for other plants.