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On Gardening: The year of the buddleia; butterflies and hummingbirds celebrate

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

The National Garden Bureau has selected several plants under their "year of" program. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Year of the Angelonia, their chosen annual. In their choice for the shrub designate, the National Garden Bureau has gone where few have dared to tread, the Year of the Buddleia. I could not be more thrilled!

No plant brings as much joy to the garden as the buddleia or butterfly bush. If you hate bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, then this is NOT the plant for you. But the real angst comes from the fact that in some locales and regions, the buddleia has been designated as invasive, As I travel the South, I am always asking gardeners and industry and university horticulture specialists if they have seen one come up or one that has escaped. So far, the answer is no.

The National Garden Bureau has done a great job of explaining the latest efforts in breeding and the successes they have found in creating new varieties that can be planted without fear of contributing to the latest version of a kudzu. The bureau also took a look at buddleia and buddleja and the famous Adam Buddle, an 18th century botanist.

The most enlightening thing I read was that the butterfly bush has the nickname of "bombastic bush." The buddleia actually has history as a symbol of resurrection, rebirth and new beginnings. As this "bombastic bush" would somehow spring up from war torn rubble in Europe, offering communities a sign of hope. I can just imagine the elation of a beautiful blooming shrub springing up out of the debris, offering a tantalizing fragrance and accompanied by the feeding of butterflies and hummingbirds.

It's about this time someone will tell me you have to have larval host plants. There are acres of wilderness behind my backyard, and yes, I plant larval host plants in my landscape. But for the short life cycle they have getting nectar, I want them ALL in my yard. I want to be all I can be feeding them, and the butterfly bush will play a vital role.

To me Miss Molly is the most beautiful butterfly bush on the planet. I’ve got two and would like at least two more. I’ve just pruned mine and look for them to be just under 6 feet by end of season. Proven Winners calls the color ruby red pink and I'll toss in magenta as another descriptor. It is certified as noninvasive, as are Miss Violet and Miss Ruby. This noninvasive certification allows them to be shipped to Oregon and Washington though under the name summer lilacs.

The Lo & Behold series are as beautiful as the Miss series but shorter; they are in the 24- to 30-inch range with an equal spread. Of the six colors, five have the noninvasive certification.

 

The Pugster series has become the "all-stars" of the butterfly bush world. Recently I wrote about how Pugster Amethyst was chosen as the 2024 Flower of the Year. It was already a winner in Europe and every gardener who tries it falls madly in love with it, including The Garden Guy. Pugster buddleias are shorter but with fragrant full-sized flowers. I’ve used them as shorter companions with Limelight Prime hydrangeas There are five colors in the Pugster group, and all will steal your heart.

Buddleias require fertile well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight. A boggy, soggy soil will simply not work. An annual pruning or cutting back hard is vital to the structure of your plant. The first buddleia I ever saw was in Mississippi and even with second-story windows.

Hats off to the National Garden Bureau for making 2024 the Year of the Buddleia.

____

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)


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