Thought by some to be an 'old fashioned flower' Snapdragons are making a serious comeback. One of Sarah Raven’s favourite annuals, she says antirrhinums have been enjoyed by generations of children enthralled by the flowers’ dragon-like jaws.
'Vintage, old-fashioned, romantic designs for clothes and home-furnishings are very much on trend at the moment, and I think these colourful retro plants also fall into that bracket. They come in a wide range of lovely colours, too.'
The half-hardy annuals which produce tall spikes of blooms in an array of beautiful colours from July until the first frosts. They get their names from their distinctive flower heads which resemble the face of a dragon, if you gently squeeze them they look as though their jaws are opening into a roar.
They are cottage-garden classics and taller varieties look best when planted in bold drifts throughout the borders, and make superb cut flowers, while dwarf snapdragons are useful at the front, where they will hide the stems of plants growing behind.
HOW TO CARE FOR SNAPDRAGONS
Sarah Raven shares her tips on how to care for your snapdragons and get the most out of these spiky annuals.
1. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SOW SNAPDRAGONS?
'I save some seed to sow outdoors in June, in prepared beds or pots. These go on to flower from midsummer until November and make a great late-season filler in borders with other plants that bloom at the same time, such as Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’. We also sow a batch in October for flowers from May to July.'
2. CAN YOU RECOMMEND SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE VARIETIES?
'There’s a couple of new antirrhinums called the ‘Chantilly Series’ and ‘Apple Blossom’ which I really love. They’re healthy and long flowering, with tall stems and unusual scents – the ‘Chantilly’ types are fruity, while ‘Apple Blossom’ is spicy, like cinnamon.'
3. HOW WOULD YOU PAIR THESE IN A POT OR BORDER?
'One of my favourite soft colour mixes is ‘Chantilly White’ and ‘White Giant’, with ‘Apple Blossom’ scattered through them both for a gentle colour contrast. In borders, I also grow bright snapdragons through the acid-green spurge, Euphorbia oblongata.'
4. HOW DO YOU CARE FOR SNAPDRAGONS?
'They’re incredibly easy and grow in full sun or light shade and most soils. Some may suffer from rust, but if you see these orange spots on the leaves apply a tea made from any alliums or chives from the garden – the sulphur in alliums is an effective fungicidal.'
5. CAN THEY BE USED AS CUTTING FLOWERS?
'Definitely – they last up to a week in a vase. Their sturdy flower spikes and gorgeous colours make a bold statement, and the more you pick, the more the plants produce.'
6. WHAT FAMOUS GARDENS CAN WE SEE SNAPDRAGONS IN?
'The annual border at Nymans in West Sussex and the cottage garden at Sissinghurst in Kent offer loads of inspiration of how and where to use them.'
Sarah Raven, sarahraven.com