Each year my mum grows sweet peas. I remember before we lived in the countryside full time and in the days before Carol used to grow her own, she’d go a little crazy whenever we passed a ramshackle road side stall selling a miserly handfull of dusty stems. She’d cry out ‘sweet peas, stop, Clive, Stop!’ My dad would swerve, break and hand my mum whatever exorbitant fee the flower seller demanded. I understood: sweet peas are beyond price. For me they remain the smell of childhood summers.
Since moving to Dorset and starting her garden, Carol has grown sweet peas every summer. Some (braver than me) might say she grows them slightly obsessively. Every year she panics that she has not started enough seeds and so buys some seedlings too, just in case. She now has three vast wigwams of sweet peas. Some are the classic summer pastels — pink, white, blue, lilac — but she has nurtured some unusual variegated varieties, my favourite is a ink-blot, leopard-spot black.