Monday, 19 September 2016

The Butterfly Bush

Last summer we were forced to admit that our  lilac tree was dead. It was a hybrid - a lilac bush grafted onto a dwarf tree (fruit tree, maybe?), a part of the original landscaping when we built our house in 1988. It was planted in a small area surrounded by the house, the driveway, the brick walk and the concrete step. We are not good gardeners, I must confess, and the only food it got was the occasional layer of mulch.  In 2003 it was half uprooted during Hurricane Juan, and it never fully recovered after that. Two years ago it bloomed on only one side, and last summer there were no leaves at all.

And yet, for those 26 years, it gave us incredibly fragrant blossoms every spring. Every fall, its leaves would drop as Hallowe'en approached, and I'd prune it back so the branches wouldn't poke at little trick-or-treaters coming to the front door, and decorate it with ghosts and witches. When our kids were growing up, we decorated for Christmas, too, and the lilac tree was hung with mini-lights and tiny red ribbons.

So it was sad to see it die (shocking conclusion: we should have fertilized it!) but by that point there was no going back to do things over. I went to the nursery to select a new victim, and came home with a butterfly bush.

Here it is last spring:


And now it looks like this:


It has been blooming steadily for weeks. Here's a bloom up close and personal:


They have a very sweet, fermented smell which I suppose is a part of how they attract butterflies. I have yet to see any butterflies on it, but the hummingbirds have visited a few times.

And it's deer-resistant!

Not ant-resistant, though - see the holes in that leaf in the last picture?

Ah, well, can't have it all :)




23 comments:

  1. They're sturdy shrubs and should do really well in your garden. We have three or four and we like them a lot. They're actually a bit invasive here in England -- the railroad lines are covered with them!

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    1. Really? The original price on this was, I believe, $25 Canadian (I paid less because it was late in the season). Perhaps you could start an international business, Steve!

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    2. Holy cow! I could have mailed you a whole box of them for free. Of course it would have taken six weeks for the box to arrive...and then there are those pesky customs laws...:)

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    3. Ha ha! And mid-winter isn't a great time to plant stuff here! (because I'm pretty sure that's how long it would take)

      I'm so glad someone else still says holy cow, by the way.

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  2. It's a pretty thing. Remember to fertilize!

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  3. We were thinking of planting some milkweed in the back yard to attract Monarch butterflies, so I looked them up, and found we already have two of them back there. They do seem to attract butterflies, white ones, little "skippers" and a few Monarchs have all been fluttering around them.
    Yesterday, while I was walking back there, I noticed that we seem to have resident bugs. A pair of brownish-orange skipper butterflies have been there for weeks, and one blue dragonfly, the last of a whole squadron of them, is still there each day when I do my walk.
    The landlord sometimes goes back there with a weed-whacker, but so far he has left the milkweed alone.
    The flowers on the milkweed are kind of similar to the ones in your picture, as they are made of many tiny blooms, but are shaped differently.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. I'm glad to hear you have some plants for the Monarchs - and some Monarchs and other butterflies in residence. We rarely see butterflies around our home. When I was a kid living in the country there were all kinds of them.

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    2. I saw something magical once. NO, it was not a garden full of beautiful tattooed women. Only Amazon finds that magical. Anyways. We were out and about one September about 4 years ago and we found a trail in a state park and followed it. We noticed the trees were odd looking. On closer inspection, we realized they were absolutely dripping with monarchs. It was migration season and apparently, this little trail was on their migration route. It was pretty amazing. Now, wouldn't you think I would go back there every single year? I keep forgetting. It's maddening. I remember right around October, about 2 weeks too late.

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    3. Ohhh ... how lovely. Now here's what you do; go make a note on your calendar right now. Doesn't matter if you don't have a 2017 calendar yet; just make a note on the December 2016 page and transfer it when you get your new one. Also, take pictures, please. When you go see the butterflies, I mean, not pictures of your calendar. Aren't you glad you have me to run your life?

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  4. We have them, and the birds love them. It hasn't enticed any hummingbirds yet, but I live in hope.
    My lilac are heavily in bud, except for the one the skinny one yanked out of the ground deciding it was a weed. I hope it survives.

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    1. Despite hummingbirds being territorial and having pointy weapons always at hand, it's magical to see them. Hope you get some this year.

      Fingers crossed that your lilac gets over the shock of being ripped out! Their fragrance is delightful.

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    2. No hummingbirds on this side of the world. I can dream though...

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    3. I didn't realize that, EC. You do have other beautiful birds that we don't ... wouldn't it be nice to be able to just snap our fingers and be somewhere else in the world, seeing things (or people) we'd like to see, then snap again to get home? I'm not a traveller but there are places and people I'd like to see.

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  5. Hi Jenny,
    Your lilac bush was there a long time. Don't blame yourself-it's time was up. The butterfly bush is pretty-I don't know much about them but I'll bet it's covered with butterflies next year once they have their annual conference and map out all the new bushes for landing on.

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    1. Now I have a wonderful image in my head of butterflies poring over tiny maps with tiny legends and tiny landmarks on them ... Thanks for that, Chicken :) (much better than thinking about the poor dead lilac)

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    2. Right? Glad to lend a hand:-) Although, today I read a synopsis of a book that Amazon thinks I'd like and it's about a beautiful garden tended by human butterflies. That a psycho kidnapped and tattooed. To tend his garden. Because he's ca-razeee. I shouldn't share that. That's probably worse then a dead lilac memory. Why did Amazon think I would like that book? What is Amazon saying about me behind my back?

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    3. What the heck HAVE you been reading lately, by the way?! Maybe there was a glitch in the Amazon algorithm? That is kind of a crazy premise for a story.

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  6. I think it was the ghosts ad witches that killed your lilac tree. ;)

    We've got a butterfly bush and they really do attract butterflies, so I'm sure you'll see loads next summer.

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    1. Hah! You could be on to something there! Good to know that the bushes really work. I'm looking forward to next summer now, and that's not usually a sentence you'd hear coming from me :)

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  7. Butterfly bushes are so lovely. I sold a lot of them back in college when I worked at the nursery !

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    1. Neat! I hadn't heard of them before I saw this one. I don't get out much :)

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