About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon)

I never once grew snapdragons before I started selling cut flowers. I had seen them in grower’s bunches at the Farmer’s Market and they just didn’t appeal to me. They are still not one of my favorites – I prefer delphiniums for spiky flowers – but they are useful and have many good points. First, they come in a wide range of colors – scarlet reds, pale yellows, pinks, crimson, bronze plus some unusual bi-colors I discovered last year. Second, they are quite productive and each plant will re-bloom later in the year. Lastly, as annuals they can be succession sown so you can have wave after wave of snapdragons for much of the summer.

Most of the snapdragon plants sold at nurseries and the Farmer's Market are shorter kinds that are intended as bedding plants. The cut flower varieties usually have to be started from seed. There are many different kinds of snapdragons used for cut flowers. The most common field grown snapdragon is the Rocket Series. If you see grower bunches of snapdragons at the Farmer’s Market, they are probably Rocket.

White snapdragons with orange and yellow rudbeckias, purple lisianthus and white feverfew.

There are also some fancier “greenhouse” snapdragons. These have been bred to flower under different day lengths and are typically grown by big growers in huge greenhouses, though some can also be grown in the field. One of the advantages of growing snapdragons in a greenhouse is that the lower flowers in the spike drop off once the flower has been pollinated. This means field grown snapdragons have relatively short flower spikes. There are few if any bees in a greenhouse so the lower flowers remain on the spike longer and the result is a longer spike of flowers. When you see tall snapdragons at the florist, they are greenhouse grown.

I don’t have greenhouse space for snapdragons but a couple years ago I did try covering the beds with row covers to keep the bees out. This worked remarkably well and I had really nice, long spiked snapdragons. But, I had problems making a framework to support the row cover. I used PVC pipe and it worked but was more work than I’d prefer. Last year I didn't manage to do this so the spikes were shorter, but I hope to figure something out for this year. The row covers definitely made nicer flowers.

This year I’m going to start three different varieties of snapdragons in seven different colors. I am growing red, yellow, white and rose from the Rocket series. I am also growing the Opus series of greenhouse snapdragons in bronze and appleblossom, a white and pink bicolor. I'm also going to try Madame Butterfly, an "azalea flowered double". I have no idea what that really means but it sounds cool, doesn't it?

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