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Buddleia for cottage gardens and butterflies

The Garden Fanatic

“Charm is a sort of bloom on a woman. If you have it, you don’t

need to have anything else ... .”

--J. M. Barrie


“Butterflies ... not quite birds, as they were not quite flowers,

mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures.”

--Elizabeth Goudge

Proper plant selection, more than any other garden feature, lends


the look of charm to cottage gardens. It is true, that authenticity

can often be enhanced by arbors, stone walkways and bird baths. But

if the plants and their blooms have the requisite look of charm, then

the garden is not likely to need much else.

One of the wonderful benefits of the cottage garden arises from

its rangy forms of biennials and perennials. The less-than-manicured

look of colorful and scented plants provides a welcoming habitat for

the ever-fascinating butterfly. Mysterious and particular,


butterflies will literally engulf plants that can supply just the

right drink of nectar.

One of the butterfly’s favorite flowers throughout the spring to

fall is Buddleia davidii, aptly named the Butterfly bush. This most

popular buddleia was named after Pere David, who co-discovered the

species while exploring in China during the late 19th century. This

time of year, well-groomed Buddleia plants appear as large fountains

of arching branches, which are filled with spike-like fragrant


flowers. Some gardeners have claimed that the attraction to

butterflies is so great, that their plants appear to be flowering

with butterflies!

British botanist and cleric, Adam Buddle, wrote an “Herbarium of

British Plants” during the early 18th century. An expert on mosses,

the good Reverend Buddle had never seen an unnamed plant from Peru.

This didn’t prevent his colleague, Linnaeus, to name “buddleia” after

him as a reward for his scholarly work. Not widely grown, Buddleia

globosa can still be found in older English gardens.

Buddleias are some of the most attractive of late-flowering plants

for Laguna, although certain cultivars also bloom in the spring. They

are fast growers and may grow up to 10 feet in a single season. In

midsummer, flowers appear in dense, slender clusters, 6-to 12-inches

long or more. Many varieties and cultivars can be found at your

favorite nursery, differences are mainly visible by flower color.

“Black Knight” is a true purple; ‘Harlequin’ has variegated foliage

and light purple flowers; while “Pink Perfection” is not

surprisingly, pink. White, lilac and blue round out the colors

generally available during a season.

All buddleias enjoy long-lasting blooming periods in at least six

hours of sunlight. Although tolerant of most soil types, they do

require good drainage and enough water in summer to maintain growth,

but little else. Like most plants, these shrubs benefit from mulching

throughout the year.

To keep your buddleia attractive, cut it back after fall-blooming

to about three feet. This type of pruning stimulates new growth and

flowering. The new shoots that follow will re-create the attractive

fountain-form display the following summer.

During the past week of warmer weather, it has been difficult to

choose between being in our sunny garden, a setting of unarguably

delightful charm, or sitting in our shady, cool patio with Catharine,

my wife of many charms. The garden needs constant tending, but so

does Catharine. What would you do? See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1540 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist,

Catharine Cooper, and has three cats. He can be reached at 949 497

2438, or E-mail to