Help Growing Florist Quality Snaps

Muse_z5(zone 5a IL)August 27, 2005

Please help me! I grew T&M Royal Bride snapdragons from seed so I could use them for cutting. I have seen beautiful thick stemmed, tall white, luscious snapdragons in wedding arrangements. How can I grow those? My snapdragons are pretty, but only producing blossoms at the tips and though I pinched them back are not producing any stronger stems. It has been a dreadful growing season here in heat and drought ridden N.IL. I have been watering regularly and using fertilizer sparingly. Thanks for any words of wisdom!

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Muse, I grow rockets and costas that do really good here. Get a germania catalog and they list the greenhouse types. Pinching kills or takes out the best and strongest flower. When you pinch them the side flowers are shorter and less thick.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 5:06PM
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Muse, The only way we can produce those tall and beautiful wedding quality snapdragons is by growing greenhouse varieties specific to our region in our coldframe. We have grown Rockets, Costas and Spring Giant in the field. They are mediocre in comparison to the ones grown under cover. The ones we had growing in the coldframe this past spring were pink and white. They were exactly what you describe as wedding quality.

Your weather and our's here in the Midwest has been what we would call: Not a really good growing season. We lost count how many 90+ degree days we had straight in a row. That's really stressful on the plants. The heat hasn't affected the bees though. Sometimes the extreme heat does for pollination of fall crops such as pumpkins and squash. Our field is amass with bees. They sleep on the scabiosa flowerhead just as if it was a pillow. They are totally in love with the blue salvia. Every day that I go to the field to harvest flowers, I know I will be stung at least once. This usually happens in the dahlia field.

The blossoms at the tip of your snapdragons isn't an unusual sight in August. My suggestion would be to cut those particular stems back, and force the plant to produce more shoots that are stronger. These field grown varieties will never, of course, be as tall as the ones grown under cover. When you harvest that center stem, you are essentially pinching the plant and causing it to produce those side stems. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Also, as it starts to cool down here; and, it has been doing that during the nights (thank goodness), the field snaps will send up new shoots. They are a cool season crop; and, don't produce well at all here in the Midwest during the summer -- any summer. Snapdragons will tolerate frost, and will bloom well into November.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 5:56PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Muse, I hope you don't mind if I pop in here to ask another question. :)

flowerfarmer, when you say undercover, do you mean specifically a greenhouse, or is there a way to do this outside; perhaps with shade cloth or whatever it's called? Sorry, I am brand-new to growing a cutting garden, so I don't even know all the terms yet, lol. I grew Rocket snaps this year, and considering the heat/drought we've had here, I was fairly happy with them. But they could always be better! Could you explain "under cover" a bit further please?


    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 10:19PM
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Cutflower growers in this region of the world have been using hoophouses/coldframes/high tunnels for probably the last ten years. The reason is we've discovered how extremely profitable protected crops are to us growers. In general these frames consist of poly stretched over metal framework. We rely on passive ventilation through roll-up sides and big doors on each end. These houses are erected right out in our field, and crops are grown directly in the ground. We use no heat for many of the crops we grow in these houses. These houses are essential to us growers with a last frost date of May 15, and need to be out there early with crops. We also use them to extend the growing period toward the end of the season. Our frost date can be as early as September 15. We are truly advocates of hoophouse production; however, because hoophouse growing in North America is still considered an evolving science we don't have all the answers. You asked about using shadecloth. Believe it or not, using shadecloth on these structures raises the inside temperature to an extreme. This is something you don't want as a grower especially when the temperature outside can be 90+ degrees. We use a UV film which is coated and blocks out UV rays from the sun. This is important because it prevents hotspots. This film can lower the temperature 10 degrees in the hoophouse, and the light is dispursed throughout the entire house.

Regarding snapdragon varieties: Spring Giant is a much higher quality crop than Rocket for field produced snapdragons. The colors are brighter, and the plant is stronger. If you grow this variety, you'll never grow another Rocket series. As cutflower growers we have to always try to stay ahead of the curve. We have to because competition is extremely fierce at market. In our hoophouse we grow a variety that is specific to our region. We're harvesting beautiful, tall snapdragons around the second week in May. One of our markets begins the first Saturday in May. Because we produce tall snapdragons we can command $2/stem for these. Someone last winter posted a photo of his buckets of snapdragons. He was charging $2/bunch.

Regarding pinching snapdragons -- We don't pinch the greenhouse varieties. However, Pam and Frank Arnosky suggest a hard pinch for field produced snapdragons. They leave three or four sets of leaves when they pinch. They are pinching at least an inch off the tip. This is better according to them than a soft pinch because a hard pinch forces the older buds at the base of the plant to grow. You will end up with a stockier plant.

Hope this information answers your question.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 3:18PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thanks, Flowerfarmer, for such an informative answer. I didn't quite think you used shade cloth, because I had heard that it raises temps, but I wasn't sure what you used. I had a vision in my mind more of row covers than hoophouses, but after your post I can envision more accurately what you were referring to.

I'm nowhere near the level you are at yet, having just put in a cutting garden, and having just joined the farmer's market locally. Probably rushed into it, but that's another story. Suffice it to say I'm learning as I go along, lol. One of the biggest things I'm constantly learning is that the more I learn, the more I still have left to learn!!

And thanks for the recommendation regarding Spring Giant. I will definitely give them a try next season. Our market does not start until July here, and I'm still debating whether this is a good thing or not, lol! It certainly gives me more time to get ready, but it eliminates many perennials that I could otherwise use.

Thank you again for your help. I always appreciate when those of you who are so knowledgable help us beginners out.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 5:09PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

I'll add one other item...use support netting! I am growing Rocket and Costa this year and they're doing great. I did pinch them hard as Flowerfarmer described and I'm getting 30" stems from some of the plants (mostly the white, yellow and lavender). I got my plugs mixed up and can't tell which are the Costas (I think the color is different). I also do not strip the leaves in the field (like I do with other flowers), I have read that accumulation of debri and lack of circulation is what helps cause rust, which wipes out the snaps. I also rotate where I plant the snaps every year as well. Mine are all field grown, I don't yet have a hoophouse! One of my long-term plans! But, last night we picket two packed buckets full (and that was after a hard picking on Thurs and Friday. We have been using fish emulsion and that may be helping. The shorter stems always work in mixed vase arrangements...even if you can't sell them to a florist, they'll still work.
I also pick them when they first show color and they store very well in the cooler.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 29, 2005 at 3:28PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Muse, it might help for you to know why you're only getting a few open flowers on your outdoors snaps. Once a floret is pollinated, it closes and the petals fall off. If you're growing the snaps outdoors, there is really no way of keeping them from bein pollinated by insects. Snaps grown under cover aren't getting pollinated because there are a lot fewer pollinating insects in a greenhouse.

That, and having the right varieties for your climate, makes the difference. For instance, Spring Giant doesn't produce here at all, yet it's the best for flowerfarmer's neck of the world (and probably yours, too). Here, Costas are the very best outside, followed (at a distance) by Rocket. The Potomac varieties I've grown in my hoophouse always look better than ANY of the outdoors snaps, because they're not getting pollinated. Of course, the weather can affect outdoor snaps heavily, as flowerfarmer mentioned.

I pinch my outdoors snaps once hard, like the Arnoskys do, and get reasonably good results. I've experimented with pinching half of the snaps in the hoophouse and not pinching the other half, but have found very little difference in performance, with the unpinched flowers maybe a week earlier, max, than the unpinched.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 3:31AM
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Bob_Piper(NE Oklahoma)

I am trying to finish another coldframe in which to grow cuts before Winter arrives and I have purchased the poly cover. It is Klerk's Kool-Lite which is a milky/opaque color which diffuses the light well and is touted as keeping the inside temps 10-12 degrees cooler in hot sunny conditions. I also intend to recover my existing hoophouse and propagation house with the same stuff. It's more costly but should be worth the extra expense. I am always amazed at how hot a house can get on a sunny day here even when the outside temps are in the 40's.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2005 at 11:36AM
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