GARDENING: Snap to it for planting of perennials

HIGH HOPES: 'Designer' mix Tootsie F1, which I'm growing this year.
HIGH HOPES: 'Designer' mix Tootsie F1, which I'm growing this year.

COTTAGE garden favourites Antirrhinums, or snapdragons, are a half­-hardy perennial but are best grown as an annual - which means an early start.

Sow seeds January­-March, thinly, in trays of seed compost. Don’t cover the seeds, or exclude light, as this helps germination.

Keep moist and maintain a temperature of 18­-22°C (64­-72°F). Germination should take 10-­29 days, but may be erratic.

The seedlings are tiny ­- don’t be put off if they seem to be making little progress ­- I always think they’re going to die young.

Seeds can be sown July­-September in a cold frame for planting out the following spring.

When they are large enough to prick out, transplant them 5cm apart in seed trays (or I use small modules) and grow on.

Gradually acclimatise the plants to outside conditions before planting out 12­-25cm apart (depending on the size of the variety) in a sunny position.

This year’s choice is Tootsie F1, a ‘designer’ mix of creamy­-white and deep pink plants.

I’m not really a fan of mixed colours where snapdragons are concerned, as you can see by my choices - I like a dramatic palette.

Last year I grew Purple Twist, which reached a metre high with splotched purple/white striped flowers.

It flowered until the first frosts -­ highly recommended.

If you’re after a smaller plant, Thompson & Morgan’s Bronze Dragon is a stunner, with almost black foliage and purple and white bi-coloured blooms.

It also has very good rust resistance.

Another large snapdragon is Royal Bride, with rich green foliage and spikes of large, pure white flowers which have a gorgeous fragrance. Makes an excellent cut flower.

GROW­ AT ­A­ GLANCE GUIDE

Sow: January­-March or July­-September.

Flowering period: June­-October.

Position: Full sun.

Hardiness: Although half­-hardy perennial, treat as a half­-hardy annual.

Recommended varieties: Available in dwarf, intermediate, tall and trailing.

Tall: Royal Bride; Purple Twist (up to 90cm/36in).

Intermediate: Tootsie F1, Black Prince; Day and Night, 45cm/18in.

Dwarf: Bronze Dragon 30cm/12in.