The Florist and Pomologist p. 24-25 (Feb. 1884)
H. Eckford, Boreatton Park, Baschurch.

THE Sweet Pea is unquestionably a most useful and justly popular Annual, and owing to the rich sweetness of its perfume it is in great favour for cutting; but although it is greatly admired and largely grown it is not, in my opinion, nearly so extensively grown as it deserves to be, and it is seldom seen in dressed grounds, I presume from its requiring sticks, which are considered unsightly. In sheltered borders, however, where it is not likely to be blown about, if it be planted very thin (I prefer one good healthy plant to a dozen), and if space is given, it will form a nice bush without sticking, and bloom profusely.

For years little if any advance was made in the improvement of this popular flower, and I heard it suggested by an admirer and raiser, that it was difficult, if not impossible, to advance much further in the direction of new varieties. I had, however, already committed myself to the task, and had got two or three generations on the road; and my experience leads me to the conclusion that in this, as in all other enterprises, perseverance will result in progress. I thought for some time that I was alone in this work, but the fact of the last season having produced several novelties from other quarters, proves that there are others at work on the same lines.

I commenced my operations on the Sweet Pea four or five years ago, with the following kinds: Invincible, the Queen, Violet Queen, Captain Clark, Princess of Prussia, Butterfly, and what is generally known as the Black Sweet Pea. These, as in the case of the culinary Pea, were carefully prepared and crossed. The seeds produced from these crosses were sown singly in thumb-pots about the middle of January the following year, and kept in a cold frame till the plants were strong enough to turn out, which was about the end of March. They were planted three feet apart, about one hundred in number. Whether the vigour of the plants was stimulated by the crossing, or the thin planting, or by both, I do not now stop to determine, but the growth and display of bloom was truly unique. They made a row so dense that in some cases where a variety was considered to possess some merit worth perpetuating, it was found difficult to separate them without actually pulling them to pieces.

It very seldom occurs that first crosses produce any very striking novelties. It requires two or three generations to work up what florists term a strain, hence the value of choice breeds. But in this instance I am pleased to say I selected a few very good varieties possessing more especially the valuable properties of size and quality of flower, with some slight novelty in colour. Thus I was enabled to note a clear break from the parent stock, and the result of the next generation led me to the conclusion that Sweet Peas may be produced in endless variety of colour, and like all other florist flowers, will, with patience and perseverance, be improved in form and size. Like the culinary Pea they are very erratic in their early stages, and require considerable care till they are thoroughly fixed in character.

I notice a clerical error in the cultural portion of my article on Culinary Peas (FLORIST, 1883, p. 181). The word "tall" is used where I refer to "late" Peas. It should read thus:— "Where very late Peas are desirable, Ne Plus Ultra sown early in March and treated as described would continue to bear till destroyed by frost." I shall be glad if you will call the attention of your readers to this, as the word "tall" entirely spoils the sense.

Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist 18(453): 298-299 (Sept 2, 1882)


UNDER this heading Mr. Henry Eckford, gr. to Dr. Sankey, Boreatton Park, Baschurch, has forwarded a collection of new varieties of Sweet Peas raised from seed after carefully crossing certain varieties. They are all very handsome, and, on the whole, distinct; but another season’s culture against the best of the varieties already grown is needed to demonstrate that they are distinct enough to be denominated new varieties. Sweet Peas are decidedly sportive in character, and time is required to ascertain and fix the characteristics of a new form.

The Floral Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society have already acknowledged in the most practical manner their approval of Mr. Eckford’s work by awarding him a First-class Certificate of Merit for Bronze Prince. This is a very fine form of the black Sweet Pea, with shining bronzy-maroon standards of large size, and rich purple-blue wings; the flowers are very large and striking in appearance. Blue King is in the way of the purple Sweet Pea, the standards large, stout and bold, as in the case of the preceding variety, and of a showy bronzy-crimson hue dashed with purple, bright pale blue wings, very fine and attractive, and particularly pleasing from its fine shade of blue. Grandeur has fine crimson-rose standards, the wings pale mauve, very fine and showy, the colour of the standards deeper in hue altogether than in the case of the scarlet Sweet Pea. This variety requires to be grown by the side of a line type of the scarlet Invincible, but we think it will prove distinct from it. Louie Eckford is like Butterfly, and, we think, not sufficiently distinct from it, as Butterfly, though opening very pale and delicately tinted when young, becomes deeper as well as more varied in colour with age. Louie Eckford is a variety charmingly tinted with blue. Princess has pale standards, slightly suffused with magenta and pale purple, the margins slightly beaded with purple, the wings on young flowers white, with a fine wire beading of azure-blue on the wings; but later flowers have the wings and the standards in some parts, but not so heavily, striped and flaked with blue. In any case, it is a very pretty variety. Duchess of Albany has pale standards dashed with delicate magenta and blue, and slightly bearded with purple; the wings white, margined and flaked with blue. As sent from Mr. Eckford this variety comes very near to Princess, but when growing side by side there may be sufficient differences to warrant the two being regarded as distinct. The examples received were a little old, and they had come a long journey through the post.

One thing is quite certain, that Mr. Eckford has obtained a very interesting and valuable break. Further crosses cannot fail to give something of a valuable character. Years ago Mr. Eckford made his mark in raising Dahlias, zonal and nosegay Pelargoniums, Verbenas, &c., so that he is by no means new to the work; and it is as true of floriculture as of any other department of human work, that what men have done and are doing is but an earnest of what they shall accomplish in the future; there can be no limit to the possibilities of production, for the universe will always be wider than the largest imaginings of the human mind. R. D.

The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Home Farmer 7: 189 (Aug 30l, 1883)

Mr. Eckford, gardener to Dr. Sankey, Boreatton Park, Shrewsbury, sent flowers of several pretty varieties of Sweet Peas—Blue Beauty, blue and purple; Grandeur, scarlet; Princess, blush; Meteor, scarlet; Blue King, rich blue; and Fascination were the chief varieties, the last-named having a pink standard and blue wings and keel.

Orange Prince (Eckford).—Flowers very large, of a beautiful shade of salmon pink. Very distinct and pretty.

Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, Volume 13 (1891)



Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Home Farmer (Aug 17, 1893) pp. 150-151

I have sometimes heard it remarked that the improved forms of Sweet Peas when compared with common strains are not so telling as garden flowers. Possibly that is so. As cut flowers, however, there can be no doubt as to the immense superiority of the former, and with regard to effect in mass that is very much a matter of opinion. It is the same in reference to new sorts. I have heard the beauty of Venus disparaged by one person while another upheld it as a charming flower; so also with Countess of Radnor. The same diversity of taste is apparent in present day Carnations, more especially in those peculiarly tinted forms which are sent over by French and German cultivators.

I thought I would like to test the value of a selected number of Sweet Peas commercially. The variety most "run on," in the words of the salesman, is Mrs. Gladstone, but Her Majesty is also good. These two varieties are also very floriferous, the latter, owing to the large size of the individual blooms, bulking well. When the new white form, almost rivalling Her Majesty in size, is sent ont by Mr. Eckford no variety ought to be more profitable. Blanche Burpee is the name of this variety, and growers would do well to note its advent. Then Mrs. Gladstone has a formidable rival in Blushing Beauty, a variety not quite so floriferous, but with much larger flowers and of a softer more satiny shade. Of crimson forms I still like Cardinal. Firefly has a larger bloom, but perhaps hardly so bright. Lady Penzance is excellent, and other good ones that I like not already named are Mrs. Eckford. Orange Prince, Captain of the Blues, and Royal Robe.—B.

Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Home Farmer (Sept 21, 1893) pp. 261-262


WEM, a quiet little town about twelve miles from Shrewsbury, is not fast becoming a familiar name with horticulturists, and has become celebrated as the scene of Mr. Eckford's present labours in the improvement of the Sweet Pea, and the culinary Pea also. Some 6 acres of land has been devoted to the Peas at Wem, for the purpose of thoroughly testing his new varieties and securing a supply of seed to be grown in large quantities in Essex, where several acres are also devoted to the culture of his Sweet Peas only, so great is the demand for seeds for home use and export to America and other parts of the world. The different varieties are sown thinly in rows in March, and when in full bloom they form a grand sight. Great care is taken that any plant not in its character should be allowed to remain mixed with the true variety. The rows are about 6 feet apart, so that an abundance of air is admitted, and there is plenty of space for a constant inspection of the plants, to detect any sport or "rogue."

Mr. Eckford is aiming at producing a yellow Sweet Pea, as well as a blue, and I think I may predict that this will be obtained some day, for in Primrose there is a shade of yellow, and this is being worked out further; and in Countess of Radnor and Emily Eckford we have a very near approach to a blue coloured Sweet Pea. The following new varieties not yet sent out will be welcome acquisitions to those fine sorts already in cultivation:—

Of varieties already sent out, Mrs. Sankey is an unsurpassed white of the finest quality; Orange Prince is very distinct; Cardinal, brilliant scarlet crimson; Isa Eckford, The Queen, and Apple Blossom are all very pretty. Imperial Blue is a fine blue-tinted mauve, and Splendour is of the finest form and rich in colour. Lottie Eckford is as yet very little known, but is very distinct and handsome, resembling the old variety Butterfly, white, slightly margined with blue. Countess of Radnor, Her Majesty, and Dorothy Tennant are three superb varieties; and Mrs. Eckford, a delicate primrose tinted white, is a charming variety. Lemon Queen is very distinct, and Monarch, Senator, Mrs. Gladstone, and Princess Victoria should be in every collection. Of the new varieties distributed this year, Firefly, Venus, Lady Penzance, and Blushing Beauty are all beautiful. Emily Eckford is extra fine, and very nearly a blue. Stanley is a very rich coloured, deep velvety maroon colour, and extra fine. Ovid is a flower of great beauty, truly a gem, and bright in colour. Royal Rose and Peach Blossom are two very pretty rosy pink-tinted flowers.

The American Florist 9(231): 1244 (July 26, 1894)

The Garden 48(1236): 69 (July 27, 1895)

A silver Flora medal was granted to Mr. Eckford for a very fine display of Sweet Peas in all his best varieties, each arranged separately in a tall glass vase. In addition to the kinds already mentioned, we noted Royal Rose, soft pink; Stanley, dark maroon; Ovid, rosy crimson; Emily Eckford, a decided blue self; Duchess of Sutherland, blush; Mrs. Eckford, cream; Monarch, purple-blue; and Countess of Radnor, pale mauve.

Vick's Garden and Floral Guide (1898)
Eckford Sweet Peas and Derivatives

*1 Stanley. Deep maroon self; large, finest form.
*2 Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain. White striped, flaked with bright rose.
3 New Countess. Flowers of largest size, pure light lavender. (Burpee. Selected strain of 'Countess of Radnor' with no reddish mauve in the standard.)
*4 Venus. Salmon buff, standard delicately shaded rosy pink.
*5 Lady Penzance. Pale but very bright rose.
6 The Bride. Latest introduction, of pure white; extra large flowers. (Lynch. White-flowered selection of 'Mrs. Eckford'.)
*7 Lottie Eckford. Rose and white, tinted with gray.
*8 Blushing Beauty. Soft pink suffused with blue.
9 Blanche Ferry. Pink and white. (D. M. Ferry & Co.)
*10 Mars. Intense scarlet, fine form.
*11 Mrs. Eckford. Large, handsome, self-colored flowers, of finest substance, peculiarly delicate shaded primrose.
*12 Her Majesty. Beautiful, soft rosy pink, very large; showy, handsome; a flower difficult to describe.

*Varieties raised by Eckford.