Friday, June 3, 2011

Blooming Dame's Rocket

It pleases me to announce that dame’s rocket, Hesperis matronalis, has started blooming around my place. This member of the cress family, a crucifer (having four petals…as in a cross), is one of my all-time favorite plants.

I’ve discussed rocket in the past, but now that it is coming into bloom, it deserves further mention. The young leaves make a sweet, mild potherb, but now the plant lends itself to its best use, that of a highly-fragrant ornamental wildflower.

Not surprisingly, most of the flowers around and in my yard and garden are wildflowers. Many of these grow here because I have hunted them down in fall, taken ripe seed and scattered it here and there around my place.

In my book, Hidden World Revealed, I talk about something I call, “blue time.” This is when rocket, chives and lupine are all in bloom.

As attractive as are the blue flowers of rocket, they also come in white, pink and magenta. All in all, it is a handsome plant. The rather long, lance-shaped, harshly-toothed leaves only add to the plant’s overall appeal.

Dame’s rocket is biennial, meaning that a plant lives approximately two years and then sets seed, beginning a new generation. For those who love rocket as much as I do and wish to start their own colony, just find some in bloom now and mark the spot. Toward summer’s end, return and bring an envelope or sandwich bag in which to store your seed. Just shake the seedpods over the open envelope and you will have anough to get started.

Then, upon returning home, find some rough ground, perhaps a gravel bank or even some land that was disturbed and hasn’t yet grown back into grass or weeds. Strew the rocket seeds and then sit back and wait for next year. It’s really just that easy.

This lovely plant also lends itself to transplanting. The recent spate of cold, rainy weather has helped me to transplant several individual dame’s rocket plants. They have done remarkably well.

Now, when and if warm weather returns, I can think of nothing better than to sit outside at night, binoculars in hand, searching for double stars and deep-sky objects and getting lulled into euphoria by the near-cloying aroma of night-scented, dame’s rocket.

Dame’s rocket is surely a plant that is worth getting to know.

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