Thursday, 21 August 2008

A Nice Green Leaf: The Mighty Budd


We've been fairly short of butterflies this year, thanks to all the rain; Jane Perrone reassures us, though, that it's just that they don't want to get wet. Her test was that even her buddleia didn't seem to be doing the business, a shocking state of affairs.

We gardeners rely on buddleia as a catch-all token gesture to wildlife. It pretty much qualifies as wildlife itself, colonising railway embankments, rooftops and chimney-stacks with a pioneer spirit that sometimes verges on alarming.

If you have a buddleia in your garden, you will spend at least one
afternoon a year doing the annoyingBuddleja2 trimming that goes with such a
vigorous grower. So it's easy to see why people might not value it all
that highly - after all, rather than caring for it, you tend to feel
more like you're fighting it back. But does that mean the whole plant's
been dismissed unfairly? Is buddleia actually due for reconsideration?

On a recent visit to Denmans, John Brooke's base in Sussex, I began to think that buddleia doesn't have to be consigned to nature corner: look at this border of dahlias and evening primrose, backed by a vividly rosy-purple buddleia. I think the pale primrose zings against
the mauve, with the white cactus dahlias providing an accent that's just spot on, for me.

Elsewhere in the garden, other buddleias were working just as hard - far from shoving themselves in where they weren't wanted, these guys were there in official border plant capacity, providing colour, height and all the other stuff you want at the back of the bed. A particular nice white one served as a backdrop to some paler planting nearer the house. (A hard pruning had clearly got them to flower as much as possible, with blooms pointing in all different directions.)

Denmans has an extrovert quality that's not just restricted to the
unconventional use of Buddleia. Here'sTupa2_3 a huge patch of one of my
favourite plants, Lobelia tupa, growing in a lovely meadow area with
heleniums and other daisies providing accent colour in the background.

For me, Denmans made the perfect argument for the better use of buddleias. CBUB, I think I'll call it. I want to see them attracting butterflies to the poshest borders in Britain, not just tolerated in some wild self-seeding area near the compost heap. Just don't ask me to start spelling it with a "j", that's all I ask.

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