Gardening tips for growing sweet peas to enter at Royal Windsor Rose Show this summer

Gardening tips for growing sweet peas to enter at Royal Windsor Rose Show this summer

Gardening tips for growing sweet peas to enter at Royal Windsor Rose Show this summer

Thinking about entering the Royal Windsor Rose and Horticultural Society's Summer Show this year but not sure what to grow? It's not too late to get planting! Here are some tips from the society for producing show-stopping sweet peas to enter at the prestigious event on July 18.

Time goes quickly and before you know it the Windsor Rose Show will be here! Why not enter some of the horticultural classes? There’s a range available including sweet peas, and now is a good time to start planting.

If you do not have plants available, there is still just time to sow some sweet pea seeds.

Pula Laughton, nine, gets planting ready for this year's show

Choose named cultivars if possible, some good ones include White Frills, Gwendoline (magenta), Ethel Grace (lavender) and of course Windsor (maroon).

Sow 10 seeds to a 13cm pot of multipurpose compost and water in. Keep in a warm place – propagator, or even on the kitchen windowsill until they germinate in a couple of weeks. Then move them to a sheltered position outside – they prefer to grow as cool as possible.

Once they have produced a pair of leaves, pinch out the growing tip to encourage side shoots to develop, it is these which will produce the flowers.

Planting can be carried out anytime from now onwards, weather permitting. The soil should contain lots of rooted organic matter to hold the moisture, and apply a general purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone at 75g/square metre and rake it in.

For top show quality blooms, grow up canes spaced 25cm apart. Keep well watered, and watch out for slugs!

In mid May, reduce the sideshoots down to the strongest one and tie to the cane. From now on, keep the plants tied in and remove the tendrils on the ends of the leaves, otherwise they will grab hold of and bend the flower stems.

From the beginning of June you should have flower stems appearing. The first ones usually drop their buds, but do not despair – later stems will produce two, three and then four flowers per stem. Cut the stems and enjoy them indoors, this will encourage the plants to produce more flowers.

The week before the show, put your entry in to the show secretary. Cut your blooms just before taking them to be staged, they travel best in a bucket of water.

At the show, select the smallest of the vases, and insert a piece of oasis to hold the stems. The classes require nine stems, and all nine should have four flowers fully out. They are usually arranged in two rows – five at the back, and four in front. If you are not sure what to do, there will be other exhibitors around to help you out. One feature of sweet pea growers – they are all a friendly bunch!

If you are not into pretty flowers but prefer culinary delights, why not try growing your own vegetables and entering them into the competition? Now is the perfect time to plant potatoes and onions or seed beetroot, carrots and beans. Submitting a collection of three kinds of vegetables could bag you the historic ‘T.W. Clucas’ Challenge Cup.

Contact RWRHS on 01753 449 449 or to receive a copy of the show competition manual by post or email.

See p11 of the manual for a full list of fruit and vegetable classes.

This year the Royal Windsor Rose and Horticultural Society will mark its 110th Summer Show.


It will be held on Saturday, July 18 at St George’s School, in Windsor Castle.

There are more than 100 competitive classes for all ages and abilities, in horticulture, cooking, baking, flower arranging and crafts.

There is also a children’s competition, a pubs in bloom competition, as well as a full day of entertainment and demonstrations.

Andrew Try, RWRH chairman, said: “Over the past few years we have revived this wonderful historic royal show. However we still struggle to get the numbers of entries for competitive classes up, which make the show extra fun.

“This year my task is to encourage people, young and old, experienced and novice to compete. We have even added ‘how-to’ videos to our website.”

The society is one of the oldest local organisations in Windsor, and was founded in 1892 under the name Windsor, Eton and District Horticultural Society.

It has been honoured with the patronage of six monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II. The society’s president is Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle Admiral Sir James Perowne KBE, who will hand out the prizes.

More than 100 cups and prizes are up for grabs. Trophies will include theWindsor Challenge Cup, which was presented to the society by King George in 1913.

Click here for details.

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