Monday, April 23, 2012


Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Very recently Paul sent out as part of his weekly newsletter a great post about Snapdragons. Snapdragons are a wonderful annual flower. They do well in Skillin's Country because they do well in cool weather. Here is what he has to say:

"...When planted early, snapdragons will be in bloom in your garden before your warm season annuals like impatiens and marigolds begin flowering. 

Snapdragons do best in a cool climate like the Northeast and west to Oregon and Northern California. They are very tolerant of cold weather and often flower well into early November. Because of their love of cool weather, they will give you great fall color when you plant mums and flowering cabbage to fill in the holes of the fading summer flowers like your impatiens and geraniums. When I lived in southern Massachusetts, I would cover the plants with pine needles in late October, and the following spring more than half would have survived the winter in my garden. (That type of survival rate is probably not going to happen in Skillin's Country but the effort is worth a try in coastal and southern areas!)

Snapdragons were found in southwestern Europe, growing as a wild pink flower in open sunny fields. Over the years, seed companies have developed many new hybrids of this plant and the work continues today to improve the color selection, flower size and flower numbers on the plant. Snapdragons grow 9 inches to 4 feet tall in your garden and will bush out 6 to 12 inches wide or more from spring to fall. If you live near the ocean or a lake where temperatures are always cooler than inland this is a must-have flower for your garden; the plant will also tolerate a bit of late in the day shade.

Snapdragons love a fertile soil so the better you prepare it with animal manure, compost or seaweed kelp, the better the plant will grow for you....

Snapdragons have wonderful dark green foliage that is oval with a slight point on the tip. Leaves grow 1 to 3 inches long and less than 1 inch wide, with a sunken vein running down the center on the leaf. The leaves grow alternately up the stem and almost look like they are growing in a whirl around the flower stem. Unlike most annuals, the foliage of the plant will tolerate frost once the plant has acclimated to the weather, so be sure to harden off your seedlings you're going to plant out in the garden properly before planting.

You can plant snapdragons two ways in the spring, pinched or un-pinched. If you set out the plant without pinching the tip of the plant, it will quickly grow tall and make a single large and tall flower stock filled with flowers in just a few weeks, depending on the age of the plant. When the flower stem fades remove it and the plant will quickly begin to develop many side shoots that in time will all make spikes of flowers and continue flowering all summer long.

Or at the time of planting, you can pinch back the tips of the stems to encourage side shoots to develop early. This will delay flowering by 2 to 3 weeks--but the plants will grow much bushier and produce many more flower stems to give your garden better color. As these flower stems fade, pinch them off and the plant will bush off again and continue to make additional flowers stems all summer long. I always pinch my plants and it really pays off with more flowers during the growing season. (I too recommend pinching snapdragons. Flowering will be postponed but you will get much more vigorous plants!)

Snapdragons love to be fertilized every 2 weeks during the growing season, and this will pay off with large and more flower spikes. (I plant with a healthy dose of Flower Tone by Espoma and then regularly apply a liquid fertilizer like Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed blend). If  you're a busy gardener, apply Osmocote time-release fertilizer when planting and again in late July for endless flowers right up to November. I like to do both and my plants provide me with endless stems for cutting.

Snapdragons can be planted in flowerbeds, in borders and do very well in containers also. Because snapdragons grow vertically, they will help give your garden extra height--and they make a great accent flower for the garden. Each flower spike will last for several weeks in the garden and the flowers bloom from the bottom up and slowly open new flowers on top of the older ones, keeping the top of the flower spike in constant color.

Here are a few of the wonderful varieties to look for at your local garden center or seed packs to purchase:

'Floral Carpet' will grow 8 to 10 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Great for flower borders, window boxes rock gardens and containers. Comes in White, yellow, pink and red colors--and if you continually clean faded stems, the plant will not stop flowering for you all season long. 'Floral Carpet' also looks great when planted on top of a wall or when used as edging along a walkway.

'Sonnet' will grow 18 to 24 inches tall and looks great in mixed borders or large planters like whiskey barrels. Plants come in shades of reddish/pink, yellow/bronze, and white flowers; the plant stays bushy and full growing. Stems can be cut for small vase arrangements. (Skillin's does not offer Sonnet but we do offer very similar options!)

'Bright Butterfly' will grow 2 to 2.5 feet tall and is great for borders, in cut flower gardens, and looks wonderful when added to large perennial flowerbeds to keep color all season long. Flower colors come in shades of red, pink, bronze, yellow and white. The flowers are also more ruffled than the other varieties of snapdragons and look unique. (Skillin's does not offer Bright Butterfly but we do offer very similar options!)

'The Rocket' will grow 2.5 to 3 feet tall--and more if you prepare your soil properly. Plants grow large and full--12 inches or more in diameter--and are very sturdy, but should be sheltered from strong winds because of the height of the flowers. The flowers come in shades of red, pink, bronze, yellow and white. Some of the plants will also have bronze to red stems and foliage for extra character. The best for tall-cutting flower stems. The plants will look wonderful in mixed borders, in perennial flower beds or up against a wall or fence to soften the surface behind them. 'Rockets' are my favorite variety, and I grow them every year in my garden. 

One last thing: insect and disease problems are minimal and the plants are very easy to grow--even for beginners! Enjoy.

Thanks Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 23, 2012

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