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Simply bonkers about the good buddleja

PUBLISHED: 11:14 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

Before getting on to the eye swivelling exciting subject of buddlejas - I just want to express my gobsmackingly enthused thanks to everyone who helps out at Lullingstone for making our first ever Eucalyptus Day such an awesome success. From Paul and Ca

Before getting on to the eye swivelling exciting subject of buddlejas - I just want to express my gobsmackingly enthused thanks to everyone who helps out at Lullingstone for making our first ever Eucalyptus Day such an awesome success.

From Paul and Carol in the catering department to Oliver and Garry, who provided 23 snakes, to Hugh and Pete for providing the didgeridoo entertainment in front of Ayer's Rock (in the World Garden!) and, of course, to all the World Garden team - some wearing Aussie cork hats - who worked their horticultural socks off. But the biggest hip-hip hooray goes to the 400 or so people who turned up. The support was actually overwhelming - we'll definitely be doing the same next year, but with the emphasis on another family of flowers that is well represented here at Lullingstone -

perhaps salvias.

Come on Green Man you're digressing, get on with the nitty, gritty, twitty and bitty of this week's topic: the good old buddleja. Buddlejas (sometimes misspelt buddleias) are, of course, also known commonly as the Butterfly Bush on account of their extraordinary nectar-inducing ability to attract so many insects, including butterflies. More so than any native plant of ours.

The well-known Butterfly Bush introduced to Britain from central and western China in the 1890s is Buddleja davidii with its characteristic purple-rich pink flowers. Now often called the Railway Line Bush, it has successfully colonised most of the UK, especially in disturbed ground within urban regions. Some marvel at how it manages to burst forth, six foot flowering stems from just a small crack in a wall. Some called it a weed!

Heaps of cultivated varieties have arisen from Buddleja davidii, including my two favourites: the sumptuous Black Knight with long trusses of deep violet flower spikes, and White Profusion with ridiculously large panicles of pure white/yellow-eyed flowers.

Buddlejas have a huge natural geographical range. They are mostly from Asia, but there are species such as Buddleja crispa from Afghanistan, frost tender Buddleja madagascariensis, as its Latin name indicates, from Madagascar. The bomb-proof yet still rare in cultivation Buddleja loricata, from high altitude

in the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa,

shows the full range of Buddlejas - with its dull green/greyish-white flowers. You'd never believe it was a Buddleja!

Then if you head off to the Andes of Chile, Argentina and Peru you'll find the glorious Orange Ball Tree - Buddleja globosa - with its glowing, stonkingly arousing jet orange, wackingly scented balls of fun.

Such variety, such fun, there are loads of buddlejas to try and they're so easy to grow. They tolerate any soil, except completely waterlogged soils, in as much sun as you can provide. Hard pruning should be done in late February to encourage flowering in summer. However, this only applies Buddleja davidii types which flower on the same year's growth. Prune more sparingly directly after flowering with other types such as globosa, which flower on old wood.

Most buddlejas are pretty widely available, but if you're interested in more unusual species visit Paignton Zoo in Devon (01803 697529), which has a fine collection of naturally occurring types.

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