Posts Tagged ‘half hardy annual’

Super snapdragons for longer flowering

December 6th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Antirrhinum 'Madame Butterfly' (left), 'Twinny Rose' (top right) and 'Antiquity'

We all know the snapdragon flower, the antirrhinum. Squeeze the sides of the tube at the back and the lips at the front part as the flower opens. And when a bumble bee lands on the lip the weight of the bee opens the flower so that the bee can get inside to do its pollination duty.

But as soon as the flower is pollinated, well, its job is done and the flower hastens towards shrivelling up and falling off. Not necessarily… Some snapdragons have flowers in a slightly different shape, a shape that hinders rather than helps pollination and encourages the flowers to last longer. There are two types.

Some, including ‘Antiquity’ and ‘ReminiScent’ have open flared flowers with no obvious landing point for a bumble bee and no familiar symmetry guiding the bee to land in the right place to pick up pollen to carry off to another flower. The almost-trumpet shape also shows off more colour.

And then there are double flowered forms, and especially the ‘Madame Butterfly’ mixture and ‘Twinny Rose’, where the centre of the flower s full of extra petals. This, again makes pollination difficult, and although it usually works in the end, as it does with all these varieties, the delay gives us a few extra days of colour.

‘Twinny Rose’ and the ‘Antiquity’ mixture are shorter varieties for the edges of sunny patio pots while the lemon-scented ‘ReminiScent’ mixture and the ‘Madame Butterfly’ mixture are taller, for borders, although ‘Madame Butterfly’ is especially good for cutting.

No rush to sow, spring is fine, but it pays to get your seed order in early – just in case…

Terrific ‘Toto’ rudbeckias

March 29th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Rudbeckia 'Toto Mixed'

On my first trip to California, long ago, I remember visiting one of the world top flower breeders. They developed new geraniums and petunias and marigolds and all sorts of new summer flowers for containers and borders. And they were working on rudbeckias.

At that time, rudbeckias were more or less yellow and they were tall. Developments were mainly in terms of how reliably double they could be made and whether or not the best doubles produced enough seed to sell.

But on that California visit I found rudbeckias were being created that were only a foot high. Not only that, but they came in mahogany and chestnut shades, as well as yellow and orange, and they also included some striking bicolours. They were called ‘Toto’.

Since then the ‘Toto’ rudbeckias have been refined and improved and they’re still available, as young plants and as seeds, and are still popular. Quite right too. Not only that, but ‘Toto’ has also received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Their dark-eyed single flowers look right up at us, individually they’re very long lasting, collectively the display lasts for months as the buds open in a steady succession – and they’re so easy to deadhead!

Grow them at the edge of large containers, as specimens in smaller ones, in groups at the front of borders. They’re robust and easy to raise from seed.

Just give them sunshine.

Queen of Zinnias

March 15th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Zinnia 'Queeny Lime Orange'We’ve seen some significant advances in zinnias these last few years, and two of them have brought us varieties that look good both in the garden and in a jug on the kitchen table.

First we had the Zinderella zinnias. These varieties have crested crowns in the centre of each flower and come in peach and lilac. Lovely. But we’ve also had the Queeny zinnias.

The big thing about the Queeny Series is the fact that the flowers are very tightly double and come with almost no off types – some zinnia varieties are far too variable in the shape and colour of their flowers to be relied upon in the cutting garden or in borders. Queenys also come in some unique colours, often with limey tints.

The highlight of the series is ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ whose tightly double flowers are coral red in the centre opening to almost tubular petals in pale limey green and them maturing to coral orange, almost to the shade of that central button. The flowers are evenly packed with petals and delightfully rounded and regular in shape.

The other thing about ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ is that it’s available both as seed or as plants. If you’d like to grow more than just a few and are confident you can raise them from seed, then the best value is to order thirty seeds for £3.55. Alternatively, you can order five large ready-to- plant-plugs for £7.95 to be delivered at planting time in May.

I grew mine from seed last year and many visitors picked them out as special. This year I need fewer – I have less space! – so I’m going to start with plants. Get yours ordered now before they sell out.

A super rosy snapdragon

February 15th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Antirrhinim 'Twinny Rose'

The wild snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, is native to southern Europe and was probably grown in Britain long before Linnaeus formalised its name in 1753. Always appealing, if only because of the way we can make the flowers open their mouths by pinching them at the sides, it’s been constantly developed and improved.

We’ve had tall cut flower types a metre high, tiny bushy ones and trailers for hanging baskets. We’ve had two different kinds of variegated ones and we’ve had bronze-leaved ones. We’ve had flowers in every colour but blue, including some striking bicolours, and we’ve had varieties with flared instead of two-lipped flowers and some with almost double flowers. We even have a few with scent.

‘Twinny Rose’ is the prettiest of the seven varieties in the Twinny Series, but they all combine a number of valuable features. They’re dwarf, but not too dwarf – about 30cm – and make low rounded plants that are good at the front of borders or at the edge of tubs.

The flowers are a lovely soft rose pink, in fact they open pale rose pink and then darken as they mature so each plant will be covered in flowers in different rosy shades.

The individual flowers are flared, with extra petals in the centre. The great thing about this is that the bees find the flowers difficult to pollinate – and it’s pollination that triggers the fading of the flowers. So the flowers last longer.

‘Twinny Rose’ is a lovely little snapdragon and this year it’s available as young plants as well as from seed. Well worth a try, don’t you think?