What kid doesn’t love snapdragons? My mom planted these old-fashioned charmers, and I could hardly wait until the flowers bloomed. My best friend, Cathy, and I would pluck off blooms and snap the dragon “jaws” open and shut, shouting “open sesame!” Over and over again. A few blooms tied together with string also made a spectacular bridal bouquet for Barbie to hold as she wed G.I. Joe in our imaginary wedding..

Snapdragons evoke nostalgia and take me down memory lane, but there’s nothing dated about this annual. The dragon-shaped tubular flowers are fragrant – especially planted in masses – and attract hummingbirds and bumble bees. They come in all colors of the rainbow except blue, and in sizes from tall to dwarf.

It’s the “year of the snapdragon,” designated by the National Garden Bureau, so maybe it’s time to revive a few childhood memories and say “open sesame” to these plants in your garden. Consider snapdraons as retro-chic.

Dwarf snapdragons are 6 to 12 inches tall, while medium-sized snaps will reach 16 to 24 inches tall and tall varieties can grow as tall as 2 to 2 1/1 feet tall. Dwarf varieties are the most common snapdragons found as bedding plants at garden centers because the compact habit offers a range of uses from garden plantings to pots. If you want medium or tall snaps, they are easy to grow by seed-starting indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost.

“Candy Tops,” “Crackle and Pop,” “Floral Showers,” “Snappy,” “Snapshot” and Twinny” are popular dwarf series, according to NBG. “Twinny Peach” was the first double form snapdragon named 2010 AAS flower award winner. “Snaptini” is a new introduction flowering under short day lengths in early spring and late fall. It has stronger flower stems, too. The “Candy Showers” series is the first trailing snapdragon from seed.

For medium-height plants, look for “Liberty Classic,” “Solstice,” “Speedy Sonnet” and “Sonnet,” or for taller varieties, try “Madam Butterfly,” a 1970 All America Selections winner. and “Rocket.” Another new variety touted by NBG is “Snaptastic,” a new intermediate height snapdragon with a bushy habit and tall flower stems. Branching is better, and “Snaptastic” requires less staking.

Snapdragons can tolerate colder temperatures and are among the first flowers to plant in spring, along with pansies and violas.

In the Midwest, plants will stop flowering under warmer summer temperatures or produce only a few flowers. Once the temperatures cool off, plants start to flower again. If the temperatures become too hot, the plants may not survive. The flowering period can be prolonged if spent flowers are removed from the plants.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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