BUDDLEIAS are wonderful summer flowers and especially valuable for people who need quick effects in the garden.
These shrubs grow to about 8 feet but can be kept as low as 4 or 5 feet with pruning. The flowers are borne in long narrow plumes at the tips of the new growth, resembling long narrow lilacs. Several hundred tiny flowers make up the spike.
The most sensational buddleias are the dark wine are violet sorts, but the most typical varieties are lilac-mauve, running over into blue-lavender and pink-lavender and solid white.
They are not backbone plants.
The shrubs are scrawny, somewhat leggy, and look as if they never really meant to be a shrub at all but just got to growing as teenagers and couldn't stop.
They are usually pruned severely in March, back to a basic trunk maybe 2 or 3 feet high. From this stub grow long soft branches -- the foliage is soft and not at all handsome -- and they flower for several weeks in late June or July.
Enthusiastic descriptions of buddleias, by those who sell them, commonly suggest they are a mass of bloom all summer long. They are not. But often smaller spikes of flower start up at the base of the fading flower stalk.
The great thing about them is they need no special care, they give considerable height to a border, they bloom when many other flowers are past or look wilted, and they attract bees.
Indeed, they are alive with bees and butterflies.
No other common plant is so attractive to butterflies, and I consider them worth growing for that reason, even apart from the garden color the flowers provide.
The buddleia everyone used to knock himself out to acquire is B. davidii magnifica, which despite its name is not especially showy, being a soft mauve.
There are new buddleias now, far more intense in coloring, with far larger and fuller spikes.
The adjective "blue" is tossed about with some abandon, with buddleias, and many innocent gardeners who think plumes of blue flowers would be nice have been badly misled. 'Empire Blue' is lilac with a bluish cast, but only the seriously color-blind would call it blue.
If the gardener wants blue in a summer shrub his best choice is Vitex agnus castus, which is indeed blue.
A small shrub with blue flowers is the Ceratostigma, but I never thought it handsome enough to fool with.
For early summer there are, of course, hydrangeas, which are intensely blue, and later there is the althea called 'Blue Bird," which is blue-lavender buy which can look fairly blue in the garden.
There is nothing wrong with buddleia colors, merely because they are not blue, but there is no point ordering varieties called blue, only to discover they are not blue in effect.
Fine violet sorts include 'Dubonnet,' and 'Royal Red,' both of them red-violet, a stunning color; 'Ile de France' and 'Black Prince,' the latter especially dark violet; 'Charming,' a pink-lavender; 'Fortune' and 'Empire Blue,' lilac-mauve.
There are three commonly offered whites, and maybe 'White Profusion' is the one most often spoken of. All the whites turn brown as they die, and often part of the spike is withered and brown before the rest of the spike has come into snowy bloom. It is not a bad effect, as far as I am concerned, but some gardeners would find it annoying.
Also, the white varieties are not as showy as the richly colored ones.
They are all best ordered now for spring delivery. They like full sun, full exposure, good ordinary garden soil, and considering the severe pruning they endure every year, they really deserve good soil and plenty of water.
When dormant plants are received, they commonly look dead, and apart from that they do not look impressive. It is a bit hard to believe how vigorously they will grow.
Some people like to cut the flowers -- they have a distinct and not unpleasant fragrance, though odes to their scent are somewhat wrong-headed -- but the blooms quickly lose luster in the house after a day or two, and the florets that open indoors are often a bit washed-out in coloring.
If you only want the vase to look good for a couple of days, however, they are fine. Some of the reddish ones are handsome under electric light.
If you never prune the bushes, they reach 10 feet or so after two or three years, and the flower spikes are smaller but there are more of them.
Early July is a tremendous season for butterflies, and I am sorry not to know enough about them to say which ones visit the buddleias, buty I know many kinds do, and sometimes I have sat near these bushes just to see them.
How often gardeners become discouraged, especially when they have given enormous thought to background trees and shrubs in a new garden. Nothing much is going to happen, with those new plants, for three years and often it will be 10 years before they grow enough to play the part the gardener dreams of for them.
In the meantime, buddleias can be a substantial comfort, planted among hollies and photinias and hawthorns or, for that matter, yews and oaks.
After a few years the buddelias can be scrapped to provide room for the permanent shrubs. They need not be cast into outer darkness, but can be transplanted along the alley, or cuttings can be made to perpetuate them elsewhere in the garden.