These two common garden varieties of plants seem to be strange equals. Yet we must look back to 1830 when a man was born in Rutland a small town in Tinwell England. He started off his professional life as a solicitor or in America he would be known as a (Lawyer). His interests turned towards horticulture or plant husbandry as it was called then. He started corresponded with Charles Darwin as his fascination on how more precisely plants passed on certain trait to their offspring. By 1858 at the age of 28 he was breeding Peas at a place called St. Mary’s Hill in Stamford. As his creations increased so did his corresponded to Charles Darwin about his outcomes. Darwin made several notations about his thoughts, and commented about them several times in his (Darwin’s Notes)
In his breeding process he used scientific process and accurately noted all parent’s attributes and how they followed through to their progeny. He first perceived a concept that later has been recognized as hybrid vigor. He watched closely to the susceptibility of first-generation and second-generation plants to dieses and their resistance their American counterparts added to their linage. He bred and back bred to gain the best traits of the American varieties into common English varieties.
He did this without the knowledge of Mendel who in Germany was secluded in a monastery and whose works would later be published. His motivation was to improve varieties not the how genetics worked as did Mendel.
He moved his operation to Bedfordhigh Street in 1872 and began breeding strawberries of which he produced several new varieties including the Royal Sovereign strawberry. He also developed the Superb and Lawton’s Fortune apples.
This gentleman and his sons and grandsons produced many varieties of peas that they sold through there store. Along with strawberries, currents and apples. His death was in 1893 but his works live on in one varieties of heirloom peas.
His name was Thomas Laxton (1830-1893), the pea is the “Laxton Pea”, the strawberry “Royal Sovereign.”
Thomas Laxton is considered the greatest pea breeder ever, and this century-old variety is his masterpiece. Try it and see why.
© KEN WILSON