10 Hours Before the Tornado

The morning of June 1 was beautiful.  I went to the woods in back of my house and took early morning shots of the flowers Tom discovered the night before.

I loaded the photos on my computer and packed my watercolor/sketch things and my laptop and went to the Wednesday Open Studio.

I began to browse the photos.  And sketched and worked with colors.

I wanted to get home to identify them, someone said it was phlox.  After some searching I found  they look like phlox but they are not.

“It is a delightful upright biennial that is often mistaken for taller varieties of phlox.  If in doubt, Dame’s Rocket has four flower petals, and all Phlox types have five.”

Hesperis matronalis is a herbaceous plant species in the mustard family, Brassicaceae. It has numerous common names including: Dame’s Rocket, Damask Violet, Dame’s Violet, Dames-wort, Dame’s Gilliflower, Night Scented Gilliflower, Queen’s Gilliflower, Rogue’s Gilliflower, Summer Lilac, Sweet Rocket, Mother-of-the-evening and, Winter Gilliflower. Plants are biennials or short lived perennials, native to Eurasia and cultivated in many other areas of the world for their attractive spring blooming flowers. In some of those areas, it has escaped cultivation and become a weed species. The genus name Hesperis is Greek for evening, and the name was probably given because the scent of the flowers becomes more conspicuous towards evening.

Dame’s Rocket is an easy to grow biennial or short-lived perennial which naturalizes freely and in some areas is considered a noxious weed.  In the home garden, however, this plant can be a welcome addition, providing bright color in the form of white, pinkish purple, or violet purple flowers, on tall, sturdy plants that hold up to all but the strongest winds.  It forms a clump in the first year, then bursts into bloom in the second, making the wait very worthwhile.  One must get close to it during the day to find the fragrance, but at night it releases a delicious scent into the air that can be detected from a good distance.  Bees and butterflies love the sweet smell and bright color of the plant, making it a wonderful addition to habitat type situations.

Dame’s Rocket does well in seemingly any soil type, explaining it’s success in escaping backyard cultivation, but does prefer somewhat moist conditions.  It is a mainstay in many perennial and wildflower seed mixes. See seedling identification photo below.  It prefers full sun, and blooms mid-spring to early summer.  It self seeds freely, but the seed germinates rather sporadically, though once you have grown a few plants you are almost sure to see them again in the future if you have halfway decent conditions.  The blooms make excellent and fragrant cut flowers and the plant and flowers are edible, but fairly bitter. The plant is part of the mustard family, which also  includes radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and, of course, mustard, to name a few.

I also saw this beautiful butterfly. The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is butterfly of North America. .

I was early afternoon by now and the TV was on while I worked on my laptop.  News of a large thunderstorm started coming and then Tornado watches were being warned for our area.

My sister who lives 60 miles west of me started messaging me on Facebook.  They were heading our way.  We notified each other of what was going on.  It touched down miles south of her, she was fine, now it was heading my way.

My daughter called, she was going to come over around 5.  I told her not to.. there were storms predicted in our area for that time.

The closer it got the more frightened I became, I gathered things to bring to the basement.  On Facebook a friend wanted to know if she would make it home, it looked like she had time.  I was waiting for Tom.

Now it was about 10 minutes away. I started down the basement with my laptop, lockbox of papers, flashlights.  Finally he came home and within 5 minutes the lights went out and he joined me in the basement.  It seemed noisy we peeked out the basement door window and it was raining hard and the trees were bending down in the woods I had been taking pictures that morning.

Just as suddenly as  it came it was over!  With electric still out we used flashlights to make our way from the basement to our yard.

We were missed by the Tornado.

To be continued………



  1. Oh Louise I am so glad you and Tom are safe. I like how you began this post, talking about how beautiful the day was and the nature study you were doing…even stopping to admire a butterfly and photograph him. This is a wonderful reminder how often we take things for granted. Thank you for that. I will remember to take time to savor the beauty in my life around me. Memorable and beautiful post.

    1. Thank you Leslie. I’m hoping to post more pictures soon and continue the story. We were the lucky ones and feel it deeply for those who lost so much. Mother nature is powerful and wondrous!!

  2. Hi Louise,
    I’m glad you were missed by the tornado! I agree the way you started this was a very nice way to remind everyone that things can change in a minute (or 10 hours).
    Very nice!

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