Before commenting on this book let me make two confessions. The first is that I have a sentimental attachment to sweet peas. One of my earliest memories is being in my grandmother's garden. In the early 1940's my mother and I spent a lot of time staying with my grandparents. I was the first grandchild, a handsome, intelligent little boy( of course) and my grandma thought the sun shone out of me; I thought the same about her. She always grew sweet peas in her garden. My granddad had his own plastering business and I remember a wooden diamond shaped lattice framework for the sweet peas which I know realise was made of plastering laths. I can remember her handing me the sweet peas to hold as she cut them and I know it was not a one off. My second confession is that I have a slight obsession with books- especially on sweet peas. I have some 20 books on sweet peas already so when I heard about this one I had to think whether I needed yet another. Of course I did. I looked forward to it arriving and wondered if it would be all I hoped for. I need not have worried. It is a first class book. I read it in a couple of days and felt it deserved a 5 star Amazon review. In order to be sure that my first impressions were accurate I left it a few days and returned to the book. It was even better with additional points in its favour.
So down to detail. The book is very well written in plain, simple no nonsense English. It is authoritative being obviously written by someone who grows, knows and loves these flowers. It will be of enormous value to serious growers; I certainly learned a lot and I am not new to growing sweet peas. It will also be the perfect book for anyone starting to grow sweet peas. There is no snobbery in the book and a beginner or someone not wanting to grow show standard flowers is not left feeling that they are taking short cuts if they don't grow plants as cordons with all the attention to detail used by show growers. There is no padding in the book; I find quite frequently nowadays that chapters or sections are included just to make the book an acceptable length or to meet the standard formula. This book is 191 pages so there is plenty of substance to it without any unnecessary sections.
The historical chapter is authoritative and should debunk one or two myths once and for all. There is a superb chapter called "Understanding How Sweet Peas Grow". There is an excellent detailed chapter on hybridising. Most books on individual flowers include such a chapter but I often feel they are going through the motions. This is very different and opened my eyes to a number of things about sweet peas. If you don't want to introduce new flowers (as most of us don't) I think it still a useful chapter giving a better understanding about what goes on .
The chapter on "Other Lathyrus Species " is also excellent and very detailed; I think the best I have seen.
The approach on varieties of sweet peas is also excellent. It is slightly different from the normal approach. Previous books tend to list different varieties in alphabetical order. Here the author follows the classification of the National Sweet Pea Society and uses the 16 colour categories. Starting with white he discusses different varieties in the categories and compares their value for the garden, cutting and exhibition. I found this approach most helpful as I tend to grow 7 or 8 varieties each year and don't want to duplicate colours. It is always a difficult choice which will be easier in future. I think this approach probably also saves space as it avoids duplication.
All in all then a first class book. The most recent book on sweet peas until now was Graham Rice's book published in 2002. There have been changes in the last nine years. That was 144 pages so with the additional detail and updated material I feel that even if you already have Graham Rice's book it is still worth buying this one. I will still, I think, find myself returning to Bernard Jones book. Out of date in some ways and slightly quirky as I can never seem to be able to find a fact I know is there, but it is still so authoritative and I have relied on it for so long.
One final point, this book is very reasonably priced. Just to show I am not blinkered I should perhaps mention that there are one or two minor editing errors and I have to say I find the dust wrapper a little dull and the font on the front a little heavy but these are small points; it is still a superb book. If you are pondering whether to buy it for yourself or as a present don't hesitate- buy it you won't regret it.