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Member Name: MALU
Date: 07/08/09, updated on 09/08/09 (151 review reads)
Advantages: looks pretty, attracts butterflies
Disadvantages: needs constant pruning
We've got a summer lilac, aka Buddleia (also spelled Buddleja), aka Butterfly Bush in our garden. Three terms for rather a modest and self-sufficient plant. Summer lilac because its narrow branches support lilac-like panicles of blossoms, 10 to 50 cm long, and because the most widespread colours are light purple and white (but there are also blue and pink ones). Buddleia after the seventeenth century amateur botanist Adam Buddle from Essex who was honoured with the name posthumously in 1774. The first specimen came from Chile, the plants we have today in our gardens, however, go back to seeds of Buddleia davidii which the French Jesuit missionary P. A. David brought from China. They reached Kew gardens in 1896.
Butterfly Bush is self-explanatory, of course. It's a magnet for all butterflies which are attracted by its fragrance and come searching for nectar. The fragrance which is strongest around noon is also pleasant for human noses, so it's a good idea to plant the bush near a terrace from which you can smell it and watch the butterflies.
A friend told me that dark butterflies were attracted by bushes with white panicles and white butterflies by the ones with dark panicles, but from what I've noticed this is not true. We've got a bush with violet panicles and butterflies of all colours come.
If they come at all! This was a shock for us, we had so looked forward to swarms of butterflies coming to our garden, but when the bush was in bloom the first time, hardly any came. Now I must tell you something about the current situation of butterflies. They're endangered because they can find less food plants in our towns nowadays. They like weeds, and people don't want weeds in their gardens and parks. The use of herbicides and insecticides are a further reason for the diminishing butterfly population as is Global Warming in general because it leads to a degeneration of plants including food plants for butterflies.
We thought that we should have planted our bush many years ago so that we could have enjoyed the butterflies in full. But now we think that we've done a good thing by providing a food plant for them, and we've noticed more butterflies and moths this year in comparison to last year! It's so pretty to see them fluttering through the garden.
We got our bush from a garden centre and planted it in the garden where there was space for it. We didn't inform ourselves about the soil it needs and whether it likes sunshine or not. We never do and we're nearly always lucky. The Butterfly Bush is definitely a plant after our heart, as a gardener said, "It's easy to grow and hard to kill." Rich soil is not necessary, in fact it's at home in disturbed areas such as road cuts or new development sites. To be honest, I haven't seen any Butterfly Bushes outside gardens in Germany, but heard from an English friend and read on an American site that they grow well in the wild there.
We do nothing for the bush, we don't give it any manure or mulch. It has sunshine in the morning and shade in the afternoon, and this seems just the right thing for it. Some years ago, when the bush had already reached a considerable height, something happened that first nearly broke our 'green' hearts but then convinced us that the Butterfly Bush is a tough guy indeed. The family living with us in our house cleared their attic and had the bright idea to throw a small wardrobe, which they didn't need any more, out of a window on the second floor instead of carrying it down the staircase. It landed flat-bang on the Butterfly Bush! This was not the pruning it needed. For the rest of the season it looked dead, but we left it as it was for sheer laziness of pulling it out.
The following year showed that it was still alive, it started to grow anew, from scratch so-to-speak, and now it's so high, more than three 3m, that we have to prune it properly. We'll do it in late autumn. This is the only thing one really has to do, even the laziest gardener can't avoid it. The branches are rather thin and the slightest breeze waves them around. It doesn't look good, the bush should be 'bushier', the leaves and panicles should start lower down.
Now the season is nearly over and the drying panicles look a bit rusty, just like it is with lilac. We have to wait a year now until we see and smell the flowers of the bush again and see the butterflies dandling through the garden.
Summary: a nice addition to the garden
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