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Sweet Rockets in flight, Hesperis matronalis.

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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
Posts: 2173
Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:29 pm    Post subject: Sweet Rockets in flight, Hesperis matronalis. Reply with quote

Sweet Rockets in flight, Hesperis matronalis.
by GPI

Did you happen to notice the wonderful displays of Sweet Rockets that sprang up along roadsides and within derelict sites over the past month? Just so you know what I am talking about, this is the plant with spikes of single flowers in shades of white, pink, purple and blue, which flower wildly throughout the countryside from the end of May until early July. While many would consider this an invasive weed, I do not, to the extent that I now wish to grow a good quantity of it within my own garden.

Sweet Rockets (Hesperis matronalis) growing wild, photo / pic / image.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Hesperis
Species: H. matronalis

Sweet Rocket also commonly known as Dame's Rocket, Dame's Violet or the Latin, Hesperis matronalis is quite often mistaken for Phlox due to its similar flowers. To tell the two apart you can count the flower petals, Sweet Rocket has four individual petals whereas Phlox carries five. Another similarity between the Phlox and Sweet Rocket flower is their delicious scent, which for the Sweet Rocket is at its height as the sun goes down.

The first part of the plants Latin name "Hesperis" is Greek for evening, which is the section of the day when the plant is totally alive in flower and scent. I suppose I could best describe the aroma the flowers produce as sweet with a clove or pepper-like hint, which is especially heady on a humid evening. With this knowledge of the plants evening scent, it will then not surprise you to know that Sweet Rocket is a close relative of night-scented stock. I feel Sweet Rocket could be used quite effectively in a planting scheme positioned close to an evening seating area, entrance way, bedroom window or perhaps next to a front boundary wall. You must however bear in mind that the plants approximately 1 metre tall branching stems and rosettes of dark green lance-like leaves tend to disappear after flowering, leaving you with a gap in your border to plug with potted plants or perhaps some late blooming bedding.

On top of the flower and scent, two other attributes have me sold on the Sweet Rocket, firstly it is great for cutting and displaying indoors, and secondly it is generally pest free, aside from the usual troubles of aphids, slugs and the caterpillars. The quantity of plant harming insects will however, in my mind, be counteracted by the sight of pollinating bees, moths and Butterflies, as this is a plant noted for attracting garden wildlife.

To grow your own Sweet Rocket plants you can do as I do and grow them from roadside seed collected in late July and August, sowing the seeds anywhere you require the plants scent. Please refrain from lifting the plants themselves where they grow wild, as transplants of established Sweet Rocket are quite short lived, plus I believe you should try to leave the wild plants as they were intended, wild. As the plant is biennial, in the first growing year a low crop of green leaves are formed, followed in the second year by the branching heads of evening fragranced white, pink and purple flowers.

Any queries or comments on Sweet Rockets in flight, Hesperis matronalis, please post below.

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Joined: 07 Mar 2009
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Location: Drogheda, Ireland

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for this article James. I got some from the roadside many years ago now and for years I thought it was Phlox until I noticed a very similar but much woodier and stronger plant in gardens which I then realised was phlox. Mind you I have enjoyed all the qualities of the plant, sweet rocket,you have described over the years. Recently I visited the Altamount gardens in Carlow and heard Helen Dillon saying that when she visited Monet's garden she noticed how much the garden depended on sweet rocket.
Is ar scáth a chéile a mairimid
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