Friday, June 6, 2008
Dame’s Rocket, a.k.a. Hesperis Matronalis
Now is the time to kill it. Lovely, massive bunches of purple or white flowers are sprouting on stalks two to three feet tall. It’s too bad that this plant is on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List – it’s a showy and easy-to-grow flower that really stands out in a garden. Unfortunately, that’s why it made the Prohibited list: it is so easy to grow that it is making itself at home in wild areas, such as along the Charles River wetland area that I drive through on the way to work. Sizable purple colonies are now revealing themselves at the shady wood-edges there and elsewhere.
Last year it was just one of many uninteresting, low-growing leafy plants. I left a patch of it growing in my flower bed to see what it did. This season each rosette put up a spike of growth that turned into blossoms. Now that it is easy to identify, it’s a great time to kill it, before another generation goes to seed. Just grab and pull – the roots are shallow and the whole plant will come right up in your hand. This is no Japanese Knotweed, thankfully.
If you are looking for a garden alternative, try phlox. It comes in similar colors and heights, but has five petals instead of four. I’m a big fan of creeping phlox myself, which is not only a perennial and a native, but it flowered in everyone’s’ gardens around here like mad this spring. When in bloom, you can hardly see the plant for the flowers.