I continuously cut bunches of sweet peas to keep the plants blooming.
When you live in sunny San Jose, the heat waves are inevitable. What’s new, however, is the duration. In the past, the temps would rise for three days, then drop back to a seasonal norm. Now they seem to last five to seven days at a stretch. With my fair, cool-weather complexion I wilt. Sadly, so do the sweet peas.
The Jungle, a self-seeded garden of Love in a Mist, Sweet Peas, California Poppies and Cornflowers in their prime.
Snap, crackle pop. There’s beauty at every stage of the cycle.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the jungle in all its wonder. Sweet peas self-seeded early this year, followed by love-in-a-mist and then cornflowers. All of the flowers are various shades of purple. I love the way they offered each other support.
One by one though, they’re calling it quits for the season.
Encouraged by Pauline, Lisa and Kelly, I cut blooms several days a week.
Close up view. The tiny hummingbird is a wine glass charm, a gift from a friend.
This sweet little tea-pot is also a gift from a friend
I found miniature milk bottles at a craft store for $2, wrapped the neck with purple baker’s twine, then filled them with fragrant blooms. Sweet pea is the birth flower for April, and, coincidentally two of my Pilates classmates have April birthdays. I brought each of them a small bouquet. I enjoyed sharing them with friends and neighbors, and even brought a few to a client.
Alas, the heat descended and the plants quickly dried and went to seed. Sweet peas prefer a cool 65 F (18C). We’ve had sustained temps ranging from 89 – 94 F (31-34C). I left them for a week till they were completely brown, then started pulling them out of the ground. I shook each plant liberally to drop any of the loosened seeds, then made a big pile to sort through on a cooler day. Ha!
Days later, on an overcast afternoon, I sat in a chair in the middle of the pile and harvested seed pods. I learned a few things. If the seed pod is still green, the seeds need to dry before storing. The brown seed pods, fully encased, give up wonderful, dry, ready to plant seeds for the following season.
Harvesting seeds, upper left, a twisted seed pod squeezed out the seeds for next year. Different stages of drying seeds. The garden natives start to fill in.
The most interesting for me though is what happens when the pods are ready to give up those seeds on their own. The pod cracks and then twists so that seeds are wrung out of the pod, dropping back into the soil for next year. That cracked, twisted pod has a beauty of its own.
The birds didn’t seem interested in the dried seeds. According to this Wiki article, unlike edible peas, the seeds are toxic.
Feathered friends stop by for cornflower seeds
But here’s what happened the minute I cleared away the dried plants. I propped up the bedraggled cornflowers and the birds flocked to the plant by the dozens. I could see three to five at a time eating seeds, but when something startled them over a dozen birds emerged from the plant. They may have been there all along, but with the love in a mist and sweet peas dominating the jungle, the cornflowers were largely out of view.
It looks like they whole neighborhood stopped by. Aren’t they cute?
That too has now gone to seed and I’ve gradually cleared away the last of the plants for the season.
The garden looks a little bare without them. I’m also missing the bees that kept me company for weeks. Even the birds are scarcer than they were.
Yup, it’s a hot, dry summer in San Jose.