It’s sweet pea time again |

It’s sweet pea time again

Aspen Times Staff Report

Picture street-side gardens and fence lines covered in the colorful hues of thousands of sweet peas and you see what Aspen looked like 100 years ago.

Ten years ago, longtime resident Ramona Markalunas decided she wanted to restore the town to its former beauty. So she began handing out sweet pea seeds to friends and acquaintances, and eventually sweet peas started popping up all over town.

Several years ago, The Aspen Times joined her in her quest, handing out hundreds of packets of seeds. And, once again, the free packets have arrived. They can be picked up at the front desk of The Aspen Times on Main Street, or at Markalunas’ business, Accent Properties, at 624 West North St.

During Aspen’s so-called “Quiet Years,” sweet peas were the unofficial city flower. But as things grew busier when the town grew into a resort destination, the tradition slowly shriveled on the vine.

“Everyone had a real feeling for them. They were real special,” said Markalunas. “After the winters we have, which were even worse [in the Quiet Years] because they didn’t have heating, well they really appreciated them.”

In 1990, Markalunas began distributing some 200 packets of seeds to anyone she could talk into planting them, and to this day is hoping to revive the old tradition.

“Hardly anyone was growing them anymore. I remember how pretty they were when everybody was planting them,” said Markalunas. “I wanted to get them started again. They’re such a nice flower. The more you pick the sweet pea, the more they put out new blossoms.”

The Aspen Times, along with Markalunas, encourages people to pick up some seeds and get in on the tradition. For some reason, says Markalunas, sweet peas produce bigger and more colorful flowers at our higher elevation.

And anyone can grow them. The packets come with directions, and once they’re in the ground, there’s not much required except a little water and plenty of picking.

Markalunas suggests soaking the seeds in water overnight and then planting them in peat pots. Keep the pots in a sunny window until nighttime temperatures consistently stay above 35 to 40 degrees. Once people have planted them in their gardens, or businesses have put them in a window box, the plants should start flowering in late July through the fall.

“People have had great success with them and this year’s mild winter should make this season especially beautiful,” said Markalunas.

For more information, call The Aspen Times at 925-3414.

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