Sunday, 17 June 2012

Snapdragons (17 JUN 2012)

It's time to think again about my Dozen for Diana selection, twelve plants to start a garden again from scratch. This month is more difficult, being spoilt for choice.

Snapdragons are the dark horse, I hadn't even seen or heard of them till last year. Included in a packet of cottage garden annual seeds, though proving to be perennial, now they are self-seeding.
They grow about 3 foot tall if unsupported, taller if grown through shrubs, and cover the full colour spectrum, including two-toned and multicoloured blooms. They love the sunshine, creeping horizontally through shade then rising to greet it, their blooms reminding me of pirates' hats from childhood stories. I can't get enough of them, however to be fair, compared to their companions, they lack the delicious scent of blue moon rose and the tantalising speckles of foxgloves excelsior - so I'll pencil in all three plants for now.

Tried & tested, reliable - snapdragons

In London, a gardener can grow almost any plant he desires, but sometimes in gardening, just as in life, one can't help the imagination wandering to what's just out of reach ...

Fantasy plants : the ones you admire in other blogs but can't (or can't be bothered to make the extra effort to) source or nurture them. Unattainable, they remain in your head, a picture of perfection.

So in parallel to the tried and trusted, sensible plant suggestions, I'm juxtaposing some plants I fancy - I haven't a clue what diseases they're prone to, their ideal growing conditions or even what they look like in the vascular tissue.

Fantasy plant #1 : Lotus flower (as seen in One's, Holley's and Alberto's blogs.)
For calmly floating on water, their huge blooms with suspended layers of petals, expansive tray-like leaves, and unusual seed pods.

It's possible to grow lotus flowers in the UK but it's a fantasy because I don't have a pond and have no intention of digging one - there's enough slimy wildlife around here as it is.

Lotus flowers came to mind due to an uncanny occurrence this month ...

A huge plant made its way into the garden without my noticing, looking like an escapee from the neighbour's pond it took a while to identify, as Google Images didn't recognise my photos.

OMG! what's this ?!

I made the mistakes of searching for "ribbed stem" and "pure white flowers".

pure white baubles transform into thumbnail size double flowers

I couldn't believe my vision when the flowers opened fully.

a dream come true ?

Back to reality, I searched through all the "daisy-like weeds".
After studying stem structure, I finally pinned it down by googling "daisy, winged stem". (I'm no wiser on the purpose of a winged stem.)

It's called ammobium alatum or winged everlasting because its flowers, with their papery petal-like bracts, are suitable for dried flower arrangements. They can be dried naturally by hanging bunches upside down in a dark, dry, airy place. Flowers continue to open while they're drying so they should be picked just before they look ready.

An Australian native, it's also called sand flower as it can thrive in sandy soil.

A compact hybrid of ammobium alatum ( 'Bikini' ) won the 1996 Fleuroselect Gold Medal.

I don't think this is the "Bikini" variety

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Donna said...

I never heard or saw ammobium alatum, but it really has an unusual flower form. Plus a small flower on a thick stem. I can see why you had a hard time ID'ing this. The flower it produces is a really cool bloom. Snapdragons are a plant that remind me of my grandmother's garden. Lots of nice memories.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Well you had me stumped with that Australian volunteer in your garden...never heard of it and I wonder how it found you. I adore snapdragons and grew them from seed this year. They are blooming and looking quite lovely.

My mother grew them in the garden every year and I just loved the flowering stalks and the cheery colors. A perfect selection.

Mark and Gaz said...

Great read b-a-g! I agree about the Lotus plant, so exotic looking with its dreamy flowers...

Diana Studer said...

Lotus seed pods fascinate me. They share with anthuriums the look of being made in a factory. Looks like a showerhead. I think they require rather deep water, so remain an idea for me too.

spurge said...

I love snapdragons - they are so tall and colorful! Here they bloom for a very long time, too, and are pretty easy to grow from seed. Lotus flowers are quite interesting, I've never seen one in real life.

Beth at PlantPostings said...

Interesting native Australian plant! I love Snapdragons--I plant them just about every year. The 'rocket' variety gets really tall, and they're great cut flowers! Great post!

Casa Mariposa said...

I think your flower is similar to a wildflower I grew up with in California called statice. The weird stems look the same. Love the cool flowers! Those would be worth drying.

Unknown said...

The stems of your visiting plant are like Statice.

I love the idea of a fantasy plant. It will give me something to think about while I pull up some visiting plants which are not the stuff of fantasy.

linniew said...

Oh I dream of those lotus flowers too b-a-g, floating on my similarly non-existent pool. But what a gift, that everlasting daisy! So pretty. I hope you do dry the flowers for a winter bouquet.

Crystal said...

Antirrhinums were one of the first flowers that I grew. The following year I grew some snapdragons. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were the same plant.

Stacy said...

The petals on your visitor really do look lotus-like--who'd'a thunk that the rare, winged Australian sand lotus would come to roost in a London garden?

Andrea said...

To say Ammobium alatum is like just saying any word to mimic a Scientific name! But the flowers are lovely and the stems look like a succulent, in your photos. Maybe it really is from Australia, as they have living things unknown in other parts of the world.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Stacy - So glad that someone else can see the similarity. I was disappointed at first that mine was not the award-winning "bikini", but I am over the moon now that you have identified this very special rare variety.

Thanks Donna GWGT, Andrea , Gardening Shoe, Casa Mariposa - The stems looked to me like they were webbed / water-proofed, like seaweed, so I guessed it was related to an aquatic plant. Turned out to be the opposite.

Thanks Linnie - Some of the flowers are hanging in my shed already. I might make a xmas wreath by combining them with some fir tree sprigs like you did.

Thanks Donna GEV - They do say that London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Thanks Mark, Gaz and Diana - In addition, the lotus seeds are used in Chinese cuisine to make sweetmeats. Lotus root is used in stir frys.

Thanks Spurge, PlantPostings and Crystal - I didn't know snapdragons are in the antirrhinum family. I think they have the potential to grow quite weedy in my garden, but why not have good-looking weeds rather than the usual ugly ones.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing that beautiful flower with us, I have never seen anything like it. I know how frustrating it is to look up plants on Google, you can nver get the right words to display the right pictures.

Alistair said...

Hi b-a-g Your Antirrhinums (snapdragons) are blooming early. They are annuals, we used to plant a dwarf variety which looked good in a bedding scheme. I wouldn't have had a clue regarding your mystery plant, very interesting and unusual.

b-a-g said...

Thanks and Welcome Gra - I find the basic Google search tool pretty good considering the millions of web-sites out there. Sometimes I've just typed in a question and got a sensible answer in the first page of listing. I've had no luck with the Google Images search tool though.

Hi Alistair - I thought that my snapdragons were perennial because the plants were around during winter. It might be that the seeds I sowed in summer last year didn't flower then so they are flowering now.

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