Galega x hartlandii 'Lady Wilson'

Snapdragon on Steroids, Possibly from Outer Space

by Andrew Keys on March 8, 2012

{Photo: Dave’s Garden user kniphofia}

In spite of all the interesting plants I grow, there are those in my household have been known to request and bemoan the lack of, shall we way, simpler things?

The humble daylily. The ever-popular hosta. The desire for run-of-the-mill bark mulch, rather than the leaf mold I use from last fall’s trees, and that I spend a bit more time weeding than mooning over my babies.

Additionally, snapdragons. Which we all know are annuals, which we all know ain’t my thang. But lo, did I ever find a “snapdragon” for that family member.

Funny thing is, it’s not even a snapdragon. It’s a pea! Can you imagine? And its name takes me back to the early days of video games.

It’s Galega, which is apparently pronounced guh-LEE-guh, but which I am choosing to pronounce like Galaga, the classic arcade game, a thing of beauty in its own right, where you’re a little spaceship blasting away thousands of little enemy alien spaceships before they blast you. Because let’s face it, that’s more fun than guh-LEE-guh.

So Galega is a giant perennial pea, up to 5 ft. tall, with variously colored flowers that tend to look very snapdragon-like in that you could pinch their individual “faces” to make them “talk.” The cultivar I have coming, ‘Lady Wilson’, is supposedly sterile, which I guess is good since Galega can apparently run a bit rampant. I read someplace the flowers are coconut-scented. Now, others in my household happen to despise coconut, so let’s keep that between us, as well as that snapdragons are members of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, not peas.

Name: Galega x hartlandii ‘Lady Wilson’, aka Galega officinalis ‘Lady Wilson’
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Best features: Lavender-white spires of coconut-scented pea flowers late spring to midsummer, height, interesting pea foliage
Likes: Sun and average to damp garden soil
Comes from: Middle East, though it’s made itself at home in Europe and elsewhere in Asia
Source: Far Reaches Farm, Dancing Oaks Nursery, Joy Creek Nursery, ForestFarm

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