This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Perhaps there are those who still question the propriety of honouring the snapdragon so much as to admit it into the order of that high-caste group designated "Florist Flowers." We are perfectly well aware how jealously the walls and portals that encompass and guard these gems of Flora are manned against innovation, and therefore shall not presume further than ask permission to enter the Antirrhinum under this heading, for the convenience of those of our readers for whom these notes are principally intended.
The Antirrhinum is a hardy genus, in the ordinary sense of the term, being a native of England, although, like sundry other plants indigenous, somewhat susceptible to extreme frost in certain localities. According with its great merits, it is extensively patronised, being very beautiful whether considered for its diversity of colour or the unique formation of its flowers. Speaking of its usefulness in varied positions, the Antirrhinum is quite at home occupying the crevices of some venerable wall, adorning its time-eaten sides by massive spikes of glowing crimson, white, yellow, and other intervening hues; handsome on the flower-border; on the rockwork also; but for the parterre indispensable.
Although not extremely fastidious about the soil in which it is placed, it prefers most that of a rich light nature. There its full beauties are perfected when in the enjoyment of abundant sunshine. Moreover, under these circumstances there is less danger of frost killing it in winter than when the soil is of a heavy clayey kind.
This is effected both from seed and by cuttings. I do not know of any other plant to equal this as regards the number of first-class flowers derived from a single packet of seed, when the seed is got from a reliable source; a poor flower is quite the exception; so that one need not be afraid to plant a bed of seedlings in the most conspicuous part of a flower-garden. For spring planting, the seed should be sown in August, or early in September, and encouraged to grow by means of a little artificial heat - that is to say, in a bed where cuttings are striking. When the seedlings are ready to prick out, sort them into shallow well-drained boxes, and place them on a shelf near the glass in a greenhouse, where frost is excluded. Water sparingly all the winter, without allowing them once to get over dry; and when the spring arrives, have them potted singly into 3-inch pots. Attend to this potting, although the plants can only occupy the pots for a week or two. They get established in a short time, forming a ball, and are less subject to be injuriously influenced by the weather when planted out, be it hot or cold. Seed may also be sown in the spring-time, either in a gentle heat or the open border.
In the latter case, of course, flowers need not be expected in abundance until late in the season.
This is resorted to with those who desire to perpetuate good varieties, and it is advisable in this case to renew the entire stock by cuttings, which obviates the necessity of lifting the old plants, should a new arrangement be decided upon. The proper season to multiply the stock is at midsummer, when they are growing freely. The side-growths should be taken while they are yet succulent and stubby. Choose a soil of equal proportions, light loam, leaf-mould, and sand. Insert the cuttings rather thickly, and afford them the protection of a hand-glass or cold-frame, in a sunny sheltered part of the garden. "Whitewash the glass or otherwise shade, and keep rather close, with sufficient moisture to encourage root-formation, until it is known that the cuttings are rooted, after which air may be more freely admitted, and the shading dispensed with. When well rooted, pot the young plants separately into 3-inch pots, and plunge them anew into the frame; using the precaution to shade for the week succeeding, to allow time for the plants to re-establish their roots in the soil, without suffering by the strong sunshine that may occur in the course of that time.
Water ought always to be supplied in sufficient quantities • to prevent the soil becoming too dry, but do not water in excess while winter lasts. Air freely in open dry weather, by removing the sashes. This keeps them both stubby and hardy, but a close frame would have the opposite effect, and cause them to be tender and lanky. Plant out in April, the weather permitting, allowing 14 inches between plants, both ways. Secure each plant by placing a stout stake to it. This will prevent winds breaking them after they become top-heavy.
Of these I select apart those that I have seen myself, while in the pride of their beauty. The Rival, white-tinted violet crimson, mottled and streaked with same colour, point of lip suffused yellow, extra. Charming, vivid yellow, striped scarlet, vermilion tube, and throat white, streaked violet purple, bold and distinct. Lina, ground white, almost wholly covered with streaks, stripes, and freckles of purple crimson, point of lip yellow. Avenir, lovely canary, heavily laid on the centre, point of flower changing to sulphur beneath, with a narrow streak of vermilion on each lower segment, cap sulphur. Gem of Yellows, grand rich golden flower. Octoroon, black-tinted rose. Aurora, pure white, slightly mottled with rosy crimson. Snowdrift, delicately-mottled rose. Antagonist, a noble flower and spike, white, under part overlaid brilliant yellow, with threads and freckles of vermilion, first-rate.
Delicatum, a magnificently bold flower of the white type, finely marked in spots and stripes of warm crimson. De Foe, deep crimson self, overshaded by a bluish tinge, good. John Hodge, yellow, strongly marked with streaks of crimson. Novelty, crimson, marked with violet, fine. Monarch, a handsome self of the crimson type. Figaro, another self, with a fainter shade of yellow on the cap, excellent form. Snowflake, a soft white self of great merit. William Robinson, this is a telling variety, the flowers are bold, well expanded, large, of perfect form, and the colour brilliant crimson.
These I shall enumerate without much description, all of which may be relied on as being the foremost of quality. Bridesmaid, white ground; Climax, pale-rose ground; Admiral, bronze-yellow ground; Artist, purple ground; Europa, yellow ground; Firefly, scarlet and white; George Gordon, crimson self; Grand Duke, bronze and crimson; Hendersonii, well known, striped; Harlequin, cream-white and rose; Matildie, rose, mottled purple; Nina, freckled rose; Orange Boven, shining crimson, with orange lips. Queen of Crimsons, The Bride, Undine, and Wrestler. A. Kerr.