A buddleia that flowers in June

10 April 2013

When we talk of a “buddleia” we usually mean buddleia davidii, which come mainly in shades of purple, plus white and pink. There are others, however, and one is buddleia alternifolia, which flowers around June.

Small Tortoiseshell on buddleia alternifolia, June 2010

Small Tortoiseshell on buddleia alternifolia, June 2010

There seems to be some disagreement as to how attractive it is to butterflies. As you can see in the photo, they will use it for nectar; if numbers seen on it are low, I suspect that reflects the relatively low number of garden butterflies which are around at this time of year, compared to the number in August when most of the davidii bloom. To me, it has the same sort of scent as the davidii.

It is a very pretty bush when in flower, but it does need quite a lot of space to spread sideways. You cannot chop it back hard in the early spring like the davidii, as it flowers on the growth made the previous year, not the same year; you therefore have to remember to prune it back by no more than one third immediately after it has finished flowering. It is fairly hardy, at least in the south of the UK, but I did lose mine overwinter, probably because I mistreated it – we had to prune it back really hard to dig out the couch grass and bindweed underneath, then we had a very cold winter, so I can’t really blame it for giving up.

You can, apparently, train it as a small weeping tree, though I suspect you’d really have to work at it.

All in all, I’d say have one if you’ve got space, but otherwise go for other nectar producing plants at this time of year: I’d recommend sweet rocket, perennial wallflower and knautia macedonica.

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