It's odd, reviewing a book that's in direct competition with one of my own. For my Sweet Pea Book now has a rival in Sweet Peas: An Essential Guide by Roger Parsons (Crowood Press).
Fortunately, Roger's book takes a slightly different tack from mine with more emphasis on growing for showing and on the Spencer types which dominate the showbench. and with less focus on old fashioned heirloom sweet peas and growing sweet peas as garden flowers. It seemed to me that with the British National Sweet Pea Society and its publications so focused on exhibitors, what was needed was a book that would appeal more to non-specialists.
So many gardeners love sweet peas, and have no intention of doing anything but growing them in the garden and cutting a few for the house, that I thought that in my book exhibiting could take a back seat - though the basics are covered. Roger's account of what is perfect in the shape of a flower, quoting the precise angle between the wings that is acceptable, is fascinating for the truly devoted but a step too far for most non-exhibitors.
My book describes a large number of different varieties of all kinds – I sat on a stool in front of them to write most of the descriptions and they're presented in an A-Z format. Roger groups his by the color classification of the National Sweet Pea Society but although he grows far far more than I ever have or will, he describes few in detail. Grouping them by color is a good idea - when my book is revised I'll be including recommendations of the top garden varieties in each color group.
But, you know, let's not do any more his-and-mine stuff. Who cares?! The books are aimed at different types of sweet pea enthusiasts – and the real fanatics will quite rightly buy both. Although I must mention the photography. The The Sweet Pea Book features some gorgeous studio photography by the award-winning photographer judywhite showing a huge range of different varieties and so helping gardeners choose exactly the colors they want.
To be honest, I'd say if your main aim is competitive exhibiting then buy Roger's book. If not, then buy mine. Better still buy both.
At the moment it's easier to get my book in North America and Roger's in Britain although both are available on both continents. Here are buttons to buy books, on both sides of the Atlantic. And don't forget you can find out more about The Sweet Pea Book at its very own website. Find out more about Roger Parsons at his website.