Monday, June 6, 2011

Slug-resistant plants II: Love-in-a-Mist and Dame's Rocket

Both Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena) and  Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) are flowers I tried after reading that they are usually left alone by slugs. Into my second summer with them I can confirm that this is true.

These flowers are touted as cottage garden favorites, and have been grown in European gardens for hundreds of years. That and the fact that they are native to Europe appealed to me. Love-in-a-Mist (in German: Jungfer im Grünen) is an annual, and Dame's Rocket (in German: Nachtviole) is usually called a biennial or short-lived perennial. In my garden, Dame's Rocket only survived one of our mild winters, but both plants have self-seeded very generously.

In fact, in the meantime I've learned that Dame's Rocket is regarded in some U.S. states as an invasive species, although in my experience, Love-in-a-Mist deserves this honor much more! I've been battling Love-in-a-Mist all spring, literally ripping out hundreds of offspring from the original 10 or so I planted from seed last year. Here it is crowding out some of my herbs. One place it didn't invade were the rows of winter onions you can see in these photos, so it must not like their company.

Love-in-a-Mist

The photos above were taken at the end of May, but you can already see the myriads of seed pods being formed.

Love-in-a-Mist seed pod
The flowers and the foliage of this plant are very delicate and lovely, and so are the seed pods for that matter. They make great vase flowers. This makes it hard to rip them out! Another observation I've made is that whereas the original variety I planted was "Miss Jekyll", which has true blue blossoms, all the self-seeded plants bloomed white and I have no more blue at all.

Love-in-a-Mist
Dame's Rocket also self-seeded, but not anywhere near as prolifically as Love-in-a-Mist, although from the one single plant (purchased in a nursery and planted the fall before) I had last summer there were at least 20 offspring - but not 200. However, the new plants this spring were not as lovely as the original pink-violet plant. The blossoms were not as showy and long-lasting, the plant had less stems, and the color was not as intense. I found a photo showing my single plant of Dame's Rocket last summer, and the second photo shows a couple of its offspring this year. I think you can tell the difference.

Dame's Rocket last year from nursery plant
Self-seeded Dame's Rocket this year
I tried digging up a few plants of Love-in-a-Mist and transplanting them or potting them for the balcony - that didn't work. They didn't survive being dug up well at all. Dame's Rocket, on the other hand, was very easy to transplant, although as was the case with all the self-seeded plants, they just weren't as attractive as the original nursery plant.

Transplanted, self-seeded Dame's Rocket
Conclusion: I will definitely continue to have both these flowers in my garden as they are slug-resistant. However, in the case of Love-in-a-Mist I'll be cutting off the seed pods before they can self-seed, and will grow it from purchased seeds again next year in order to get the lovely blue blossoms. And although self-seeded Dame's Rocket is easy to manage,  I think I'll invest in plants from the nursery again next year.

Another observation: bees and butterflies just love the Love-in-a-Mist.

24 comments:

  1. Georgeous views!

    Every summer I think this will be the fall I scatter Nigella seeds again and every fall I forget. Making a note NOW.

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  2. I love Dame's Rocket in the flower beds. Mine self sows every year and I never know where it is going to turn up. LOL! I did not know Love in a Mist spread like that. I love the blooms ob yours but maybe I had better stir clear of it. Thanks for the tips.

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  3. Lovely, Barbara, flowers, photos and your garden. Slugs be danged here too for we do have more than our share of them. We enjoy both the nigella and hesperis, but your former post about columbine, well, they have become a weed in our garden and with roots so deep they cannot be removed... pretty but invasive. Good to see you and hope you are off to a good summer start.

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  4. Hey, i have the blue nigella, i didnt know if it was hardy so i collected the seeds from the pods, and seeded them again this spring. They are still beautiful and blue. Those white ones would be really beautiful in a shady part of the garden. I wish i lived closer to you so i could ask some seeds of them before youll remove them :).
    I am the writer of "hare majesteits tuin" but google wont let me sign in on the comments, :(
    What USDA climate do you have in mannheim? I am unsure if nigella is hardy in holland but surely hope so. The flowers and leafs are so beautiful, and i love plants who can manage themselves. (i really like poppies in pastels and white and seeded them last year, but this year they didnt come back)
    We call nigella: Juffertje in het groen (little lady in green) its almost the same as the german name :)

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  5. Love the Dames Rocket, Barbara, I have it all over the garden edges at Kilbourne Grove. I try not to let it into my beds, it would just take over, but looks lovely flowering on the banks.
    I do hope (selfishly) you keep blogging, I enjoy your posts very much.

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  6. I'm with you I love them both. The nigella I just pull where I don't want it. The cool thing I like about it is that it disappears soon so the summer perennials can take over. Now the Dames rocket I've not had success getting established here. I have truly tried. This year I winter sowed some and have planted out the seedlings. I hope they grow to look as great as yours. Maybe you could fall sow some nigella seeds in your window box and they would grow?

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  7. Barbara
    what I find interesting, that your blog is more and more visited by English writing bloggers.
    But my blog in Canada has become an German blogger favourite:)
    Liebe Grüße Gisela.

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  8. That's nice, I always wondered if Nigella got eaten by slugs.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Elke

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  9. So beautiful...my love-in-a-mists are loved by the bees as well! :)

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  10. I've sprouted a dozen cells of Dame's rocket this spring. I've decided to commandeer the shade under the golf course pine trees adjoining my yard and turn it into a marginal/woodland shade bed with Dame's rocket, digitalis, and both sweet & purple Joe pye. Glad to learn that Dames rockets does well for reseeding. I think I'll pass on the love-in-a-mist though. They sound a little pushy ... :-D

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  11. Two of my favourite plants, I think it depends on your soil how invasive they are. We are on heavy clay and have wet winters, usually, they both seed around but not agressivly at all. My Dames rocket are all white and love-in-a-mist has stayed all blue.Love them both.

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  12. Die Jungfer im Grünen ist auch einer meiner Favoriten im Garten. Die ist romantisch und eleganz zugleich. Auch ihre Blütenstände sehen bis zum Winter noch sehr schön aus. Dass sie aber auch gegen Schnecken hilft ist mir neu gewesen. Danke für die Infos - nun weis ich auch, warum ich so wenige Schnecken im Garten habe;-) Liebe Grüße von Luzia, die ab Sonntag die Gärten der Provence für zwei Wochen erkunden wird.

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  13. I've always loved the look of Love in a Mist, but here I'm afraid to plant it, in case it self sows a little too freely. It's interesting that the self sown flowers are white rather than blue, suggesting that if you wanted blue you'd have to propagate them from cuttings rather than seed, presuming it's an unstable hybrid. It's great they're slug resistant though, and I actually like your white airy blooms!

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  14. Given the low maintainance and the great performance wherever I see this plant, I'll have to admit that I'm quite tempted to give it a try!

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  15. They're both lovely flowers, Barbara. I'm always interested in which plants will self-sow in my garden and what the volunteer offspring will look like. My most common self-sown plants are siberian iris and tradescantia virginiana. I think most hybrid cultivars (assuming that they are not sterile) tend to revert to something closer to the original species when they self-sow. Although I have about a dozen different varieties of siberian irises in my garden, the volunteer seedlings are all the same deep blue-violet with yellow markings on their falls. The tradescantia seedlings are more varied, although mostly tending toward a blue-violet color. The exception is the cultivar 'Osprey' (white with brushes of soft blue on its petals), which seems to come true from seed. I also think that the volunteer seedlings self-sow more readily than their more refined parents, so the increase in plants over the years can quickly become exponential! -Jean

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  16. Dame's rocket is considered a nuisance plant here in Colorado and you can't even buy the plant here or have it shipped!
    A friend of mine once gave me seeds and it grew for a while in my garden...the color is fantastic! It eventually petered out.

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  17. Dear Barbara, I love this post! Your garden is looking lovely. I don't have these plants, but would like to try the Dame's Rocket. I have to research how invasive they are here. I have couple of real bullies, and don't want to add to them. We had a very wet spring and the slugs are horrible this year. Thank you for commenting on my 'lasagna garden' post. In answer to your question, I only use the black printed newspaper as black ink is soy. I avoid the colored parts. P. x

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  18. Oja schneckenresistente Pflanze das wäre auch etwas für meinen Garten. Ich habe heuer auch die Jungfer im Grünen ausgesät und bis jetzt blieb sie von den Schnecken verschont. Dafür laben sich diese schleimigen Biester an allen möglichen anderen Pflanzen.

    lg kathrin

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  19. hi
    what a lovely blog you have.your schrebergarten looks wonderful.thanks for the information.
    regina

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  20. I stumbled upon your Blog while looking for others. Just today I was talking about Dames Rocket. Here in Wisconsin it is considered an invasive and is labeled as illegal! I have lots of it. It is really pretty this time of year. Some upcoming posting will have them in the photos. They do a good job in blooming right now when other things are just getting started here along Lake MIchigan. I will check you to follow so I can keep up on your Dames Rocket and other plants! Jack

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  21. Slugs (or lack of them!) are definitely the speciality on this blog!

    I like your white Love in the Mist much better than the blue I have grown. It's a funny plant - the flowers look wonderful in photos but a bit of a muddle from a distance. (At least, the blue ones do.)

    Haven't come across Dame's Rocket before. I like the look of it. May try that!

    Esther

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  22. Lovely gardens and lovely settings. I am your new follower, I would appreciate your stopping by when you have a chance and following. Have a nice weekend.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  23. Beautiful yard! Good luck getting rid of slugs, or at least finding plants that they don't like. You haven't posted since early June. Hope all is well with you.

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  24. I came across Jungfer im Grünen in a "slug barrier" seed mix, which I guess attests to its non-attractiveness to the Schnecken . . . JiG has also self-sown profusely in my garden, but in the original colors (white and blue). My oldest daughter collected the seeds this afternoon and "sold" them to the neighbors, so there may be even more of them around next year!
    Greetings from Biberach/Riss
    Jill

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