The group of flowering plants known as the pea family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) is one of the largest flowering plant families known and includes many ornamental flowers as well as the peas and beans that provide food for the table. The flowers look a bit like butterflies, with petals of different sizes and shapes: the top one quite wide, called the "banner"; and two smaller ones below it, the "wings," surrounding the fifth petal, called a "keel" from the way it juts forward.
The plants come in all sizes, from tiny creepers to large trees, but all have the same single, dry seed that gives the family its name, recognizable as the pea.
Chief among the annuals is, of course, the Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Not only is it strongly fragrant, but it comes in a wide selection of colors, and in bush as well as vining types.
Annual Lupine (Lupinus hardwegii), grows easily from seed and is available in blue, white and pink.
Russell Hybrid Lupines are large, attractive perennials that come in a variety of colors. Smaller Lupines, usually with blue flowers, can be used for a casual meadow effect.
Wild or False Indigo (Baptisia australis), can grow as high as 6 feet and has spikes of bluish purple flowers.
Crownvetch (Coronilla varia) is a creeping groundcover with lavender pink flowers.
Bush Pea or Golden Banner (Thermopsis) resembles the Lupines, but with yellow flowers.
The Brooms, species of the genus Cytisus, can be found in varieties with a dense, attractive habit and pale yellow or rose colored flowers, though many species are too weedy looking for the garden.
Bush Clover (Lespediza thunbergii) bears rose-pink flowers on a six foot shrub.
Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens) is a tough, cold-hardy shrub with bright yellow flowers.
Wisteria is perhaps the best known of the Pea Family climbers, a woody, vigorous vine with long white or lavender flower clusters.
Scarlet Runner Beans, edible ornamentals, can be used as annual screens, as can the annual Sweet Pea.
The perennial Sweet Pea (Lathyrus latifolius,) is a tough, carefree climber with purplish pink, sometimes white or rosy pink, flowers.
Lobster's Claws (Clianthus puniceus) is a semi-evergreen scrambler with red flowers.
Quite a few trees with ornamental blooms come from the pea family, including the Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Goldenchain Tree (Laburnum anagyroides), Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin) and the Brazilian Butterfly Tree (Bauhinia sp.)