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The butterfly bush brings a host of welcome guests.

Byline: By Peter Surridge

Peer over any garden wall in late summer and the chances are you'll see the purple spikes of buddleia in bloom, with butterflies showing a keen interest in the flowers' nectar.

This butterfly bush, as it is nicknamed, is Buddleia davidii, an easy-to-grow shrub from China and Japan which is now naturalised over much of the world and can be seen growing on wasteland and even in walls. The common forms are mid-purple but other colours range from deep purple to blue, red and white. It is just one of numerous species and many varieties produced by plant-breeders ( there are 105 kinds in the national collection at a nursery in Hampshire.

Buddleias are named in honour of the Rev Adam Buddle, an Essex parson and expert amateur botanist some 300 years ago. Linnaeus, who later devised the naming system for plants, spelled the name buddleja ( the version now favoured by the Royal Horticultural Society but not by all gardeners.

Buddleia davidii is a quick-growing shrub that flowers on current year's growth so it is pruned hard ( to within a foot or so of the ground ( in late March or April for the best flowers. Average size is around 2m (6ft 6in) though the arching branches spread somewhat wider. Left unpruned, a shrub will produce smaller flowers on top of a 2.4m-3m (8ft-10ft) bush. It blooms from July to September. Successional flowering can be encouraged by pruning back to new sideshoots as the leading flower head on each branch fades.

The choice of colours is wide. Some of the best include Black Knight, which is dark purple; Charming, lavender-pink; Empire Blue, violet-blue; Royal Red, purplish-red; and Fortune, lilac-blue. Good white varieties are White Profusion and Peace, which has 50cm (20in) spikes of white flowers with an orange eye.

There are two other popular garden species.

* Buddleia globosa , which is not quite as hardy, flowers in early summer, bearing dense spherical clusters of orange or yellow flowers on a shrub that can grow to 5m (16ft).

* Buddleia alternifolia has long, trailing branches covered in small, mauve sweetly-scented flowers which are borne on the previous year's growth. If trained as a standard it is elegant all year and stunningly beautiful when in bloom. It can reach 3.6m (12ft).

All three can be propagated from cuttings, Buddleia davidii in autumn and the other two in summer.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2004
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