In the Garden:
February, 2012
Regional Report

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Angelonia Midblue is a great choice for flower beds or container gardens. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

Angelonia -- Awesome Summer through Autumn

She's orchid-like with pursed lips, smaller than her cousin the snapdragon. Her delicate spires of blue, pink, purple, lavender, white or bi-colored flowers thrive in summer sun and humidity. Angelonia angustifolia (angel flower, summer snapdragon) is favorite annual in our northern climes.

Native to the West Indies and Mexico, she's a bushy perennial in the south and tropics, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder.
Last summer, a trio of Serena%%% Blue Angelonia nestled among orange nasturtiums in a window box above my front steps. The snappy combo of strong, bright flowers brought smiles and wows into early December.

The compact Angelonia Serena series, each plant about a foot tall and wide, is a Ball Horticultural Company cultivar from natural selection breeding of varieties in South and Central America. Flowers are Purple, Lavender, Pink, White, or Blue. This year's improved Angelonia Serena Mixture and Angelonia Serena Waterfall Mixture range about two inches taller.

It looks like BallHort opened the angelonia door for U.S. gardeners with its Angelmist%%% series in the 1990s. Till then, angelonia was a virus-infected, novelty/collector plant. Angelmist now has ten plants including the eye-catching, bi-color Purple Stripe (deep purple flowers edged in white) and spreading cultivars tolerant of very dry or very wet soils.

Proven Winners stepped in with its Angelface%% series, further advancing the new virus-free, breeding. Angelonia Angelface includes Pink, Wedgewood Blue, Blue, and Dresden Blue, plus MidBlue -- all at about two feet. Delightfully elegant in a mixed border, Angelface was also bred to enjoy as a long-lasting cut flower.

Though angelonia is new to our ornamental gardens, she was named angelon by explorer and botanist Alexander von Humboldt in the early 1800s. She's noted in the Curtis Botanical Magazine, 1810, as Angelonia gardneri. Mr. Gardner's Angelonia. "In the Brazilian collection of the indefatigable Mr. Gardener by whom it was found in the rather dry, open places of the province of Pernambuco."

Why all the fuss? Angelonia cultivars are better than ever. "They're great," says Mary Costello, garden designer and owner of City Planter in Philadelphia, Pa. "The bigger varieties remind me of delphinium. They're robust plants, yet delicate-flowered. They go with everything -- pinks, whites, yellows."

She likes the smaller cultivars in the Serena series for containers, where they can be appreciated up close. "Serena Blue gets better and better," she adds. "When you deadhead, cut them back, they get very prolific and bushy." She uses the larger varieties like Angelface and AngelMist as bedding flowers.

While all the varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections. They flourish with monthly fertilizing. It's best not to let them dry out completely. They're annuals for us, but winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. Angelonia is in the Plantaginacea family (formerly in the family Scrophulariaceae -- common figwort) with snapdragon, veronica, penstemon, monkey flower, toadflax, and mullein.

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