Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BBB: Dame's Rocket

I picked up a packet of Dame’s Rocket seeds at Big Lots during the summer of 05. Because spring had passed, all the seeds were deeply discounted. I hadn’t a clue what Dame’s Rocket was, but the package advertised it as a perennial. After a little more research, I learned that Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is classified as a “short-lived” perennial or biennial. While I found that a bit disappointing (this is before I started my BBB cause), I was thrilled to note that it is fragrant!

I also winter-sowed these seeds. Germination was easy. The plants developed into tidy rosettes, not unlike wallflower. I planted them into the garden in late summer 2006.

I chose to site the dames in my SE shrub border, which I had recently converted from grass to garden. The border runs along the southeast side of our property. It doesn’t get much morning sun, because the neighbor’s oak shades it, but it does get a blast of hot, late afternoon sun. It’s a difficult spot: too shady for sun plants but too hot and dry for shade plants. I gave the Dame's Rocket additional water during August and September to help them establish. They seem to love their home.

This spring, the rosettes shot up into gangly spurs (again, not unlike wallflower). However, they have reached up to four feet tall. The flowers are an unremarkable mauvey-purple, and quite fragrant. They are reputed to be more heavily scented at night, but I haven’t conducted a sniff test.

One note of caution is that this plant is listed as an invasive plant and noxious weed. It reseeds aggressively and can crowd out native wildflower species. I would advise against planting this in your premium garden space. It’s best used in the difficult spots where pampered plants won’t grow.

Germination: easy
Culture: easy
Form: neat first year, gangly second year
Scent: sweet floral
Color: pinkish purple

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Blogger OldRoses said...

I grew this one year and loved it. I've heard that it reseeds agressively but after that first year, it never showed up again. Then I figured out that I had deadheaded too soon for seeds to develop. I planted it again two years ago and then last year (wanting it to reseed) I left the dead flowers on until the seed pods developed. I'm still waiting to see how many new plants come up this year.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Renee said...

This looks alot like my phlox:)


6:19 PM  
Blogger Kylee said...

Dame's Rocket grows wild in profusion around here, usually next to woods' edge or along creeks and rivers. And the fragrance is more pronounced at night.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Dames Rocket used to grow in a clearing along a bike path through the woods in Illinois - coming up to that section of the path in early evening was a scented delight.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

12:32 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Last year, I put a Dame's Rocket in a place where I was having trouble growing other plants. It was one of the first plants up this spring and looks as if it will be in bloom soon.

I love the way it grows in the back lane for weeks on end, it seems. It comes back every year, although now I realise it is reseeding itself!

It looks beautiful in this pic.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I brought this fragrant, lilac-colored wildflower to the office today. Everyone loves it. I didn't know the name and just googled on "wildflower", "lilac", "fragrant", and found that it might be something like "dame's rocket". Googled some more and found your site with the picture. This is it! Thank you so much! And I'm a bona fide cat person, too :-) (Check out the funny cat videos on my website :-)

1:49 PM  
Blogger dew_right said...

Head's up for all you avid gardeners: while Dame's rocket is easy to grow and beautiful, it is also invasive. It is native to Europe, brought over as a garden plant, and has escaped to natural areas and is crowding out native ephemerals such as trillium, Jack-in-th-pulpit, trout lily, etc. A more environmentally conscious choice would be native phlox (which looks very similar but blooms in late summer and has five petals instead of four). Check out to find more information about invasive plants (sweet woodruff, is also invasive).

7:50 AM  

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