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On May 28, 1767 Jefferson observed "Snap-dragon" blooming at Shadwell, his childhood home.[fn]Betts, Garden Book, 5. Manuscript and transcription of Jefferson's garden book at the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 53.[/fn] and four years later, he listed this native of southern Europe among the hardy flowers to be naturalized in a "shrubbery" at Monticello.[fn]Betts, Garden Book, 27.[/fn] Jefferson's reference is the earliest known mention of this plant in an American source .[fn]Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 169; Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 479.[/fn]This southern European native has been cultivated in American gardens since the mid-18th century. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon included the "Common Snapdragon" in his 1806 American Gardener's Calendar as a biennial flower.[fn]Bernard McMahon, The American Gardener's Calendar: 1806 (Charlottesville: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 1997), 291, 292, and 344.[/fn] By the mid-1800s, many snapdragon cultivators had developed a variety of colors and forms. In 1890, however, Peter Henderson noted in his Henderson's Handbook of Plants and General Horticulture that "this plant, in its wild state, is very commonly found growing on the tops of old walls."[fn]Peter Henderson, Henderson's Handbook of Plants and General Horticulture (New York: P. Henderson & Co., 1890), 26.[/fn] It became a favorite for Victorian bedding schemes.[fn]David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 79.[/fn]The Snapdragon is an excellent example of a flower whose appearance has changed little in three hundred years, and Jefferson's Snapdragon might have been the purple-flowering species that now grows wild throughout southern Europe. The snapdragon is a summer-blooming flower grown as an annual with deep wine-red blossoms on upright stems.- Peggy Cornett, n.d.Further Sources
- Coats, Alice M. Flowers and Their Histories. London: Black, 1968. See pp. 24-25.
- Dutton, Joan Parry. Plants of Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1979.
- Look for more of Jefferson's references in his garden book. Manuscript and transcription available online at Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society.
- Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
Hardiness Zones:Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
Location at Monticello:West Lawn
Planting Conditions:Full Sun
Blooming History:2001 May 11 to 2001 Nov 82002 Apr 25 to 2002 Jun 282003 May 13 to 2003 Jul 142004 May 14 to 2004 Aug 132005 Jun 10 to 2005 Jun 232006 May 24 to 2006 Dec 12007 May 29 to 2007 Nov 152008 Jun 6 to 2008 Oct 132009 May 29 to 2009 Sep 12010 May 24 to 2010 Sep 12011 Jun 7 to 2011 Aug 152012 May 24 to 2012 Jul 202014 Jun 2 to 2014 Jul 172017 Jun 1 to 2017 Nov 102018 May 30