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August 2, 2005 > Buddleia: The Butterfly Bush

Buddleia: The Butterfly Bush

My Buddleia are blooming: royal purple, scarlet, lavender, white. Once in a while a Monarch butterfly comes meandering by, reminding me of when there were oodles of butterflies in the Tri-Cities. Like many others, trying to create our own little nature patch in a sometimes difficult world, I try. Buddleia provide nectar for butterfly survival. Put your nose to the pretty flower panicles, or groups, and they smell like childhood honey summers. It's enough to make an entire day happy.

Buddleia aren't difficult to grow. I've even started some from cuttings. All they need is sun, enough water to get started and then an occasional soak. There are about 100 different kinds of butterfly bush, although you can generally find about two in local nurseries. "Buddleia davidii" is the official "butterfly bush." It will get to 10 feet tall, sort of, and comes in a plethora of colors. Names include Charming, Fascinating, Orchid Beauty, Raspberry Wine, and Peace. For an added fillip, Harlequin has cream and green leaves around its dark red-purple flowers.

There's also a hard-to-find butterfly bush that only gets 3 to 5 feet tall. It has silver leaves and purple blue flowers. But the one I really want, if some magical sun space opens up in my overcrowded garden, is Golden Ball Butterfly bush with yellow-orange flowers. You can, I'm told, grow Buddleia from seed started in spring. For potted plants, I like Forest Farm at Catalogue is $5, has 500+ pages, and has plants you can't always find elsewhere.

Ah yes, our story time. Pere Armand David, a French Jesuit missionary, had been sent to China to set up a school for boys in Peking. While doing this, he also did a lot of plant searching. In fact, he was such a great botanist, or plant person, he was released from his missionary duties to collect plants to send back to France.

This was not an easy job. Pere David kept a diary of his collecting trials and travails. These include sharing a tent with his donkey in order to protect them both from wolves, which he mentions as being "inconvenient." He sent thousands of samples home, some of which survived the long sea voyage.

An English clergyman, Reverend Adam Buddle (1660- 1715) was an avid gardener and well-known botanical researcher and author. And so, Buddleia is from Buddle, and davidii is from missionary Pere Armand David. I love plant stories, it makes the garden a world of past as well as future.


Many thanks to Roger of Fremont for the wonderful letter about garden snails. Roger isn't a fan of snail bait, squash, or garbage can. He thinks that is unkind. Roger may collect snails in his pretty garden, but he sometimes just transfers them to his nasturtium bed where they can live out their years munching away. If the group gets overmuch, he takes both nasturtiums and snails to a "wild place wherein they (the snails) can make a run for it," some escaping predation. Roger, thank you so much for making my summer sun even sunnier. Kindness is so welcome in this best of all possible worlds. Happy summer.... Pat

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