One of my main interests other than gardening is wildlife. There is one beautiful shrub that will always attract my attention during summer, not just for its wonderful fragrant colourful flowers but the wildlife that it attracts. The Buddleja is the Butterfly Bush, its one of the most popular plants on the butterfly menu and very attractive to bees and other wildlife too, a must have for anyone wanting to create a wildlife garden or sunny border.
The most common forms we see in gardens are Buddleja davidii and cultivars. They like well-drained soils in a sunny site. It’s best to prune down by about half in autumn to protect against wind damage during winter, and then fairly hard in spring. They also propagate very easily from cuttings.
Buddlejas are available nowadays in all sizes from small container shrubs that are suitable for the patio or terrace garden, to very large shrubs that are ideal in a large sunny border.
They don’t all have those typical long flower spikes, a few are quite unusual like B. globosa, a large shrub with long dark green leaves and clusters of orange-yellow flowers that are shaped like little balls.
Another is B. alternifolia, a large shrub with a weeping habit. Its mauve-pink flowers hang in clusters along arching branches. It can be trained into a weeping tree and unlike most other Buddlejas it flowers on the previous summer’s wood so should not be pruned hard in spring.
A couple of years ago I planted a row of dwarf Buddlejas, all named after butterflies, around them I planted Red and White Valerian another excellent nectar food for some butterflies especially the Painted Lady. At the moment the Valerian is flowering and a little taller than the Buddlejas that are just budding up.
Butterflies are also attracted to Lavender, Aubretia, Scabious, Asters and Sedum spectabile to name but a few. Don’t forget about the plants that they will need to lay their eggs on. A common favourite that you wouldn’t need to plant is the Stinging Nettle. It’s hard not to dig them all up isn’t it? This year I’m going to try a little mercy!