In Praise of Snapdragons
They’re colorful, hardy and salt tolerant
Hardy annuals can add color to the winter landscape. They are available as starter plants in nurseries and garden centers but can also be grown from seed.
While there are options in a rainbow of colors, sometimes relying on the tried and true may be best. For the Emerald Coast area, this may be the snapdragon.
It has two appealing features, especially for the novice gardener. First, it has been propagated successfully for over 2,000 years in southern Europe and still grows wild in Italy and Greece. It is also salt tolerant, which is a good thing for gardeners living near the Gulf of Mexico.
Today’s snapdragons come in a variety of colors and range in height from 4 inches to 3 feet, depending on the cultivar.
For these plants to reach their full potential, supplemental nutrition may be needed in sandy soils near the coast. Snapdragons flourish in slightly acidic soils, so the addition of peat moss may be necessary to lower the soil’s pH into the ideal range.
For color in the spring, now is the time to divide crinum lily bulbs. This is easily done by loosening the soil with a trowel or shovel and removing the new bulbs attached to the established plant.
Plant the new bulbs in a location that gets partial shade, and blooms will appear in late spring.
When the perennials in the home landscape are dormant, transplanting is far more likely to be successful. Still, there are some steps that should be followed to improve the likelihood of good outcomes.
When a shrub or small tree has been selected for relocation, be certain the new location meets all the needs of the plant. Soil type, light exposure and enough room for the plant to develop to maturity are all considerations.
Prepare the new site by removing competing weeds, like smilax and Carolina jessamine, and digging a hole large enough to accept the root ball of the transplant. Add compost or peat moss to the base of the hole especially if the soil is sandy.
The root ball of the transplant should be as large as possible so as not to disrupt the smaller roots closer to the soil’s surface. These are the roots that absorb most of the nutrients and moisture needed by the plant. Be sure the root ball is an inch or two above ground level. There will be some settling, and it will be fatal to the transplant if it is planted too deep.
Mulch the root zone, and water as needed. It may be winter, but the plant is still slowly growing.
An easy way to assess the moisture is to stick a finger 2 inches beneath the soil’s surface. If it is dry, then add water.
One activity benefiting yardscapes will accomplish three results. Gathering and properly applying leaves and pine needles to flowerbeds will tidy their appearance, insulate shrub roots and suppress weeds in the spring.
Collecting deciduous leaves and pine straw is sometimes viewed as a necessary chore to maintain a neat guise, and it helps. The neighbors and homeowners association will appreciate the orderly look.
Just as important in the near term is the insulation factor of this organic material. Four inches of mulch will help regulate the temperature and moisture of the plant’s root zone much like insulation in the home. It might seem an odd time to be taking weed control actions in the home landscape, but early winter is the starting point.
Sustaining this organic barrier of mulch will help suppress annual weeds from germinating in spring. One caution: Bringing in mulch from off-site may introduce weed seed. So, picking up bags of mulch left on the roadside may save raking time, but it could add to needed weed control efforts later.
Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County extension director.