Lathyrus belinensis

July 22, 2023

Recently, I have had a few conversations about our perception of time – in relation to that oft-stated line about time seeming to move quicker as one gets older.

Although it is true that a young child inevitably perceives a year as seeming longer than someone in middle age, I just don’t buy the rather joyless notion that life has to accelerate inordinately over time – especially in relation to the diverse, highly distractable worlds of botanists and gardeners.

One of the great things about engaging with nature and its innumerable cast of characters is that one’s days are filled with discoveries, events and observations – similar to the unfolding world of children.

Within the experimental garden (and wider property) attached to our studio, we have an area devoted to the propagation of a range of species (native and exotic) from seed. This feeds into our future work as well as providing us with new species for the garden. One of the most exciting species that has become available recently is a critically endangered sweet pea from southern Turkey, called Lathyrus belinensis.

This wonderful distraction is just one of many species whose seedlings introduce a staccato rhythm to my day at present, as plants take advantage of lengthening days following Matariki.

I was introduced to this remarkable species (which was only described in the late 1980s) when visiting Keith Hammett (one of our most eminent horticulturists and a world-renowned plant breeder) several years ago, when he explained the potential role of this species for developing yellow varieties of sweet pea to me (a goal that is still a work in progress).

As far I’m concerned, the blood-red veining and overall tones of this species can’t be improved upon, although it is important to note that plant breeders are not necessarily attempting to supplant or surpass species through breeding.

I’ll be quite content if Lathyrus belinensis is the only sweet pea that we ever grow within our garden – through which it will scramble this summer in a similar manner to the way in which it tumbles through fields and banks of a small area of Antalya.