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I have a Buddleja in my garden that was planted over ten years ago and I consider it to be one of the best features of my garden. I first acquired it from a family member who said they were a fantastic plant for attracting butterflies, something I dearly wanted to do.
The most recognisable Buddleja plants are the purple varieties often seen up and down the country along railway lines. I have a white flowering variety called the Buddleja davidii or 'White Bouquet'.
It is a tall shrub with thick woody branches at the base from which thinner branches will grow. Each branch, which has large deep green leaves along their length, then produces one large head of many tiny flowers at the end of the branch. Often branches will have several other flower heads behind this but they tend to be smaller in size. My own Buddleja tends to grow about 7ft tall every year from a core height of older wood which is about 5ft. It grows profusely every year and is always quite thick (3-4ft width) so I cut it back every Autumn to about three or four inches to the base of each individual flowering branch, leaving a few buds at the base of the older wood for next years growth.
The flowers on Buddleja shrubs are very beautiful, grand and imposing. Each head, when looked at closely, actually has tiny compact flowers that are bunched together. The flower heads are like very large cones which taper away to a thin point.
The Buddleja is extremely valuable to wildlife gardeners. I always see dozens of butterflies on the flowers and they remain their for hours drinking up the precious nectar. Peacocks and Red Admirals tend to be the main visitors but I also see commas, large whites, skippers and others. The flowers are also very valuable to bees, wasps and flies. At the height of flowering the Buddleja is literally covered in dozens of butterflies, hence why the plant is commonly known as 'the butterfly bush'. My Buddleja tends to flower in mid to late summer, but I live in the north of England and have noticed that Buddleja bushes further south tend to flower sooner.
In order to prolong the flowering on the Buddleja I deadhead any dead flowers from the shrub as soon as they die off, allowing the nutrients to go into other parts of the bush. The flowers are always an excellent source of nectar for insects later on in the summertime.
I would definitely recommend the Buddleja to anyone with a medium to large sized garden who wish to plant something that is beneficial to insects. I am hoping to plant a second Buddleja in my patch soon as I think they are one of the finest shrubs you can have in your garden!
Our Buddleia bush is around six years old and was in the garden when we bought the house, planted by the previous owner who wanted something large but reasonably ornate to hide a rough patch on the fence - it was supposed to be a stop-gap apparently but in the end he grew to love the bush and kept it there even after having a new fence fitted prior to us moving in.
I love it myself and am happy to have kept it, we had Buddleia a few years ago but it wasn't really suitable for the garden we had at the time an we ended up digging it out before we put the house on the market - I didn't know it was Buddleia and even if I had it would have still needed to go as it had grown surprisingly tall so blocked some of the light from the kitchen window which prospective buyers wouldn't have been impressed by.
The Buddleia Bush is also known as the Butterfly Bush as it attracts butterflies of all different varieties, this year we've mainly had lots of small creamy white butterflies landing on the plant but last summer we spotted some wonderful orange and red ones which were much bigger. It's impossible to say what butterflies will come to the plant during any given summer but anything that brings butterflies into my garden is fantastic as far as I'm concerned!
Ours also attracts bees, which is also fine with me although the kids and their allergic dad aren't quite so pleased about those little buzzing visitors!
You don't have to do much for the bush to thrive, keep it watered during the hot months and prune back the sections as they die off at the end of Autumn/early Winter to give the plant the best chance possible of coming back to life in the Spring. One thing to be aware of is the fact that there are loads of different varieties of Buddleia and come can spread like crazy, a semi-tall and wide bush can end up double the size next summer and sometimes another small Buddleia plant will appear in another area of your garden as the pollen (or seeds, I'm not sure...!) can travel so effectively at times.
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.