All About Sweet Peas
On this day, a photo of the horticulturist and Reverend William T. Hutchins of Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, appeared in the Springfield Republican.
William is remembered for his book called "All About Sweet Peas," published in 1892 by the Burpee Seed Company. Five years later, William wrote another book for Burpee called Sweet Peas Up-to-Date. William's writings were used as promo material for Burpee, and customers positively received them. Incredibly, Burpee distributed fifty thousand copies of "All About Sweet Peas."
In August of 1898, The Star-Gazette out of Elmira New York reported on a talk that William had given about the history and culture of sweet pea.
“Mr. Hutchins said that the flower is a native of Sicily, and is widely cultivated there, but in late years it has come into popular favor in America, and is now raised in nearly every part of the country.
The speaker mentioned some of the rare varieties and told how they are obtained…
He also gave a most interesting description of the gardens of Mr. Eckford in England, whose cultivation [of] about seventy-five of ...the choicest sweet peas have been given to the flower lovers of the world.”
And, in 1950, Charles H. Curtis, the editor of the Gardeners' Chronicle, wrote,
“Fifty years ago, a parson from Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, stood on the platform in the Lecture Hall of the Crystal Palace. He was the Rev. W. T. Hutchins, an enthusiastic grower of Sweet Peas, who had a voice as sweet and persuasive as the fragrance of his subject. I can hear him now.”
One of my favorite articles featuring William was published in The Atlanta Constitution on March 31, 1991. The title of the article was "Oh, Sweet Peas, Please Climb Above My knees" and was written by Laura Martin.
Laura dug up this quote by William, who said that the sweet pea has "a fragrance like the universal gospel."
And, regarding the sweet pea, Laura wrote,
“Finding a plant with outstanding beauty and fragrance is a treat. Many roses, of course, offer this combination, but easier and far less demanding are old-fashioned sweet peas, which will trail and climb in your garden while emitting a delicious scent. Common name: Sweet Pea . Botanical name: Lathyrus odoratus.”
The Greek word lathyros means pea or pulse, and the Latin word odoratus means fragrant.
Today, Japanese varieties have the most abundant blooms, and some Australian varieties are frilly. Sweet peas are a long-lasting vase flower, which makes them quite popular with florists and brides.
Finally, in terms of floriography, or the language of flowers, sweet peas convey bliss and pleasure. They also mean saying goodbye after having a good time. Nothing says thank you like sweet peas.
Finally, of the sweet pea, John Keats wrote:
"Here are sweet peas, on tiptoe for a flight;
With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings."