Antirrhinum - Snapdragon
Photographs by Sabina Rüber
Snapdragons bring cheerful colour to the garden in late summer. I remember them growing by the wall in my granny’s garden, and have a distinct memory of her showing me how to squeeze the flowers to make the dragon’s mouth open and close. The botanical name, Antirrhinum, is derived from the greek anti (like) and rhinum (snout), and these southern European flowers have been grown in Britain since Roman times. Worth tracking down are the single-colour strains, forming graceful spires - entirely worth planting for the time of the year when you are trying to ramp up the colour as other flowers fade. They are excellent for cutting, too, lasting for well over a week in the vase.
You can’t go wrong with the plain-but-beautiful F1 varieties ‘Liberty Crimson’, ‘Liberty Lavender’ and ‘Admiral White’, which all grow to about 100cm. Some of the older cultivars recently reintroduced include the pink and apricot ‘Appleblossom’, which has good old-fashioned charm, and the Potomac series are particularly popular with florists. My current favourite is 'Chantilly Bronze', in eye-catching shades of pink and metalic orange. If shorter flowers are what you want, for a container perhaps, then choose a variety such as the velvety-purple ‘Black Prince‘ or ‘Night and Day’, which has deep red-purple flowers with white throats. Both grow to about 45cm.
Snapdragons are half-hardy annuals so they should be sown under cover in mid-spring. The seeds are tiny so are best sown in a small seed tray, scattering them thinly on the surface of the seed compost and then covering them with the finest sprinkling of vermiculite. Start them off on a warm windowsill at 20-23C, where they will germinate readily within a few days, and prick out into modules or 7cm pots when the seedlings are big enough to handle, potting on until you plant them out in late spring or early summer.
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