During the second half of Spring, when my daily garden walk leads me eagerly to the row of Snapdragons, I keep my fingers tightly crossed in the hope to find strong healthy shoots that will have ample strength to keep upright those beautiful inflorescence which hopefully will soon appear. Snapdragon’s raceme-inflorescence are composed of many broad tubular florets that are shaped like the jaw of a dragon and so this flower’s name comes from the delightul trait that the florets snap open their ‘jaw’ when one gently squeezed it from the sides. How fun!
If I pinched back the terminal bud when the plants were about 4-6” tall, I’d expect to see a crown of shoots coming up from the base but if I didn’t pinch back I will probably find a somewhat taller, single shoot. Either way it’s always a happy sight when I see them close to blooming and still standing upright, lush and green.
But I have struggled with the Snapdragons and I still do, but I love them in my arrangements so I keep on trying to grow these beautiful flower stalks. However growing strong, tall, healthy and beautiful plants has proven not to be so easy for this Snapdragon lover.
I started out buying starts at the local box store but that was a mistake for several reasons; for one these places are not locally owned companies with an interest in the community, and for another, the starts were typically a dwarf variety, and they’ll cheer up a sunny yard or garden quite nicely, for floral arranging you want taller varieties. I have found better starts at the local nursery stores, the taller cut flower varieties. They were also healthier and stronger, so I learned that it pays to shop around at a reputable nursery store.
I also tried growing Snapdragons from seeds, this way I knew at least that I’m off to a good start with the right variety to grow beautiful elegant flowers. Still I did not have much luck with them for a while. Many of the stems were too thin and started flopping over under the weight of the flower heads, or the wind would knock them over. I have tried staking them but phew….. that was a lot of work and really not that successful either. A few stems did turn out OK but once I arranged them in a vase they seemed to drop their florets prematurely and didn’t last as long as the stems I bought at the flower market. I have since learned that in the case of Snapdragons, if pollination happens, the florets will likely drop prematurely. This is the reason why field grown Snapdragons for the floral trade are often grown in high tunnels, to prevent pollination and thus assuring a longer vase life.
The location of my gardens and also time constraints prevents me from growing flowers in high tunnels so another solution needed to be found.
I may have found a good solution in growing the Chantilly variety seeds. The Chantilly looks a little bit different, this Snapdragon keeps it’s mouth open, so these can not be ‘snapped’ but they look beautiful opened like that and actually makes the florescence look bigger. More to the point; pollination and thus the presence of pollinators on and around the plant does not affect the bloom’s longevity, and THAT is a plus for all you flower arrangers and the bees too!
So this year I had a pretty nice stand of Snapdragons, the Chantilly variety did well for me. Of course there are improvements to be made but I feel I have made progress.
A few things I have learned about Snapdragons: They do better in a full sun location, when there is too much shade the stems will grow thin and by the time the flowers appear, many will have collapsed and grown crooked. These stems can still be used in an arrangement, they often look nice at the bottom, hanging out of a vase but they are not the elegant stems that beckon you to stand tall, like they do.
I have not had many issues with insects on my Snapdragons but rust (Puccinia antirrhini) has been a problem that I still struggle to overcome.
Giving the plants room to grow and assuring airflow around the plants is a must, but even then your plants can become infected with the airborne virus. Although I have had some issues with rust on the Chantilly as well, overall this variety has done pretty good as long as I give them enough space, sun and airflow.
Spraying Neem Oil every other week can be an aid in preventing an outbreak. You want to cover the leaves and stems thoroughly, especially on the underside of the leaves. I purchased a spray-bottle with a wand attached, specifically for this purpose.
Once the rust has infected a Snapdragon plants, I have been unable to rectifying the problem entirely. Spraying Neem every 7 days or so (more often when the weather is rainy and less often when it is sunny) does help arresting the infection somewhat, but I have not been able to get rid of the rust entirely once it was established.
History of Antirrhinum:
The name Antirrhinum derived from the greek word ‘anti’ which means ‘like’, ‘rhis’ meaning ‘nose/snout ‘ and ‘inus’ meaning ‘of’ or ‘pertaining to’, thus we assume that Antirrhinum refers to the florescence shape ‘like a snout or nose’.
This herbaceous tender perennial is considered native to rocky areas in North America, Europe and North Africa but likely originated around the Mediterranean basin. She now grows practically throughout the world, in many areas as an annual.
Snapdragons are widely used in the gardening world for beddings, rockery gardens, herbaceous borders and container. They thrive in temperate regions of the world and do best in an area that receives full -to part sun.
Produced in large quantities in Europe as well as in North America, Snapdragons are a major player in the specialty cut flower Industry, their linear shape and long vase life make them a sought after ingredient for floral design.
As far as edibility goes; the plant is not toxic but the taste is very bitter, so it is not really used culinarily except maybe as a garnish. The seeds however produce a very good oil and for this use, especially the people in Russia have cultivated the plant for centuries.
A green dye has been produced from the plant, dark green hues as well as a golden tint.
Antirrhinum has also been used as an herbal medicine for centuries. The flower and stems have anti-inflammatory properties and are bitter, resolvent and a stimulant. It has been used as a poultice on tumors and ulcers and has also been effective on reducing discomfort due to hemorrhoids.
Woman throughout the ages have been known to boil the Snapdragon flowers and leaves in water and after straining it applied the resulting concoction to their face, ensuring a beautiful and youthful appearance.
The Roman’s and Greek thought that the Snapdragon had the power to protect against witchcraft and the physician Pedanius Dioscorides wrote that protection would be given to a person when Snapdragon was worn around the neck.
In the middle ages European castles were protected against evil when Snapdragons were grown near the gate and during the Victorian era it was believed that when one received Snapdragons in a bouquet, a proposal was in the works. Continuing in that vein, during those days, hiding a Snapdragon in your clothes was thought to make you fascinating and alluring.
In the Victorian Language of Flowers Snapdragons can sometimes mean deception, so giving a Snapdragon in combination with a truth telling flower such as a Hyacinth, it could mean: I am sorry! However Snapdragons also stands for graciousness and inner strength during trying times.
Snapdragon use in Floral Design.
Snapdragon is a linear flower and lend itself perfectly for creating hight in an arrangement, this makes her a beautiful addition to a bouquet of form- and mass flowers. Originally just blooming in purple and white, nowadays they are available in many colors outside of the true blue- and green range; pink, orange, yellow, white, bronze, purple, magenta and red are all available for the flower lover.
Vase life can be up to a week when properly conditioned, which means you want to cut your stems in the cool morning hours when approximately one third of the florets have opened. Cut the stem at a slanted angle and immediately place upright in deep water (which has been infused with a good flower food) for at least an hour before arranging in a vase. Like most line flowers Snapdragons should be kept perfectly upright in order to keep the stem straight while conditioning. Even letting them lean against the bucket for an hour or so tropism will set in, meaning the stem will start bending in an upward angle thus creating a permanent ‘crook’ in the stem.
That’s all for now folks, not because there is no more to tell about this fascinating flower but I simply can’t wait any longer to pick a few more Snapdragons to fill my house, my vases, my orders with these beauties and in the meantime I’ll make sure to hide some in my negligee…..and you should too.