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There are approximatel 100 species mostly all are shrubs, but a few being trees; the largest species reach 30 m tall, but most species rarely exceed 5 m tall.

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      25.05.2008 16:24
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      Originally native to Asia the Buddleja is now one of the commonest British plants

      The Buddleja is a very fast growing plant that will be familiar to almost everyone. When I was growing up my parents always had these growing at the bottom of their garden and we always called them "Butterfly Bushes" due to the fact that throughout the Summer months they would always be covered in brightly coloured butterflies. As an adult I was somewhat surprised to discover that the "Butterfly Bush" was actually the official common name of these plants, which are botanically known as Buddleja Davidii.

      When I moved into the house that I currently live in it was always my intention to create a "Wildlife Garden" in the area at the back of the garden, beyond my garage and shed, and remembering these lovely plants from my childhood I knew that no "Wildlife Garden" would be complete without a Butterfly Bush, or two.

      My parents still live in the same house that I was raised so I decided that my bushes would be grown from cuttings taken from my parent's plants. These plants must now be well over thirty years old, although they are well cared for, and cut back and pruned every year.

      Propagating plants is often feared by the amateur gardener but there are some plants that grow so easily you simply cannot fail. Thankfully, the Buddleja is one such plant.

      The easiest way to grow a new plant is to simply break off some short branches in early Spring and place these sticks in damp soil. It is important that the soil should not be allowed to dry out. Within a few weeks these branches will have put down their own roots and then they can be transplanted elsewhere. This is how I obtained the two bushes at the bottom of my garden, which are still quite small, but I know that they will grow quickly.

      New plants can also be created by a method known as "Air Layering". This involves partially cutting the stem of a new shoot with a sharp knife. A small amount of damp compost should then be placed around this cut and the whole area covered with a small polythene bag. By the end of the same Summer this stem can be removed from the parent plant. This method is for a slightly more advanced gardener than myself, but I presume that it would probably give a greater sense of achievement to produce a new plant in this way.

      The third option is to grow these plants from seed. Seeds can be collected from these plants at the end of the Summer after all of the flowers have died. The seed heads should be allowed to dry on the plants before being removed and collected.

      The ease with which a new plant will grow is one of the reasons why the Buddjela has been so successful in Britain. Originally native to China and Northern India this plant was brought to Europe during the eighteenth century and flourished. In fact it was so suited to the British climate that it quickly escaped from the gardens and today in many areas where it grows freely it is actually considered to be a weed.

      This is often one of the first plants to establish itself on wasteland. It is commonly found on railway embankments and will even grow inside derelict buildings in urban areas.
      There is no doubt that if left unattended these plants will quickly take over an area and get out of control. In these situations their branches become long and straggly.

      In a controlled situation like at the bottom of my garden these plants should be severely cut back at the start of every Spring time. Many amateur gardeners are nervous about pruning but the truth is that you can be quite harsh with these. Cutting back a plant at the beginning of Spring will not stop it from flowering that same Summer.

      The flowers that a Buddleja Bush produces are usually lilac coloured, or sometimes a deeper shade of purple. These flowers grow on long, elongated stems and due to their weight hang downwards. These flowers are very rich in nectar and they have a lovely sweet smell. This is why they are so attractive to butterflies, although they will also attract other insects including bees.

      As a lover of wildlife I believe that every garden should have a Buddleja Bush. It is actually a proven fact that these plants have almost single-handedly helped to increase the numbers of butterflies in urban areas, this is particularly true of two butterfly species, the Peacock and the Small Tortoiseshell.

      The Buddleja Davidii derives its name from Père Armand David, a French naturalist, and an English Reverend called Adam Buddle, who was a botanist. They created the first domestic hybrid of this plant and ever since there has been quite a debate over the spelling of the word Buddleja, which is also often spelled Buddleia.


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