A wispy breeze washes over me as I step into the Memory Garden to check the butterfly bushes. It is early morning, that magical time before summer heat pushes down like a hand. My rubber boots sink into the fresh mulch as I check the bushes for spent blossoms. As I snip, I observe the bushes' general health. The lacy Buddleia davidii aren't just shrubs, they are symbolic. They mark the resting places of my Yorkies, Mister and Zap.
Here in these little patches of earth, you will find pieces of my heart.
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. ”
– Mark Twain
Last year, Mister's Buddleia had been taller, loaded with booms, but Zap's bush had struggled. When winter arrived, I worried and worried.
The worry continued until spring, when neither bush sprouted leaves. I checked them each day, looking for growth, but I saw nothing until the end of April. First, a tentative leaf, small and trembly as a whispered prayer. Then another and another. By the end of May, after three hard rains, everything was growing like crazy. Along the fence, ornamental grasses were pushing into the butterfly bushes.
The ornamental grass crept up behind Mister's bush.
Zapper's bush was engulfed. The grass was competing for sun, blocking any breeze. Despite the hostile takeover, the purple blossoms bloomed defiantly.
I had no sympathy for the tall, skinny grasses. (On the off-chance that you aren't acquainted with them, read about their virtues HERE.) In another part of the yard, they would have been welcome, say, along the back fence.
But not here, not in the memory garden.
But not here, not in the memory garden.
Luckily, my ornamental grasses are easy to trim. First, I spread newspapers on the ground so I wouldn't litter the mulch. Then I trimmed them with ordinary kitchen shears. I do have long clippers, but I needed to make sure I was cutting the grasses, not the butterfly bushes. By the way, if you ever need to trim ornamental grass, be sure to wear goggles, and you might want to cover your ears, too. These leaves are knife-like. They've been known to scratch eyes and to even puncture eardrums. Confession: Though I knew better, I wore no protection, and I received a minor corneal abrasion, which was quickly healed by prescription eye drops. But it was worth it. Sunlight and air can reach those precious butterfly bushes.
Snip, snip, snip.
While I work, I am visited by the angels. Bees fly in lazy circles, looking for plump blossoms.
Butterflies drift from heaven, wings beating together like clapped hands, cheering me on.
One visitor appears to be a Pieris Rapae or Cabbage White butterfly.
Did you know that butterfly bushes have earned criticism as noxious weeds by some garden professionals? These shrubs can be invasive, which seems like a small crime compared to my ornamental grasses, but that's just my opinion. The Buddleia will naturalize, too, when seeds are carried by birds.
There are apparently 100 species, maybe more, of this deciduous shrub. They come in many colors and sizes. If you deadhead the spent blossoms (and put them in a plastic bag for safe disposal), you might curb the dispersal of seeds. If you've given up on Buddleia because it is taking over your garden, you might want to look into the new cultivars. Lo and Behold's "Purple Haze" is non-invasive and doesn't require deadheading. You can also buy dwarf bushes.
Some butterfly bushes can grow to 8 or 10 feet tall. They like sun but will tolerate part shade (as Zap and Mister's bushes have shown). These bushes need well-drained soil to prevent root rot. They're hardy to minus 20 degrees F. But it's always a good idea to tuck them in for winter, spreading mulch around the base.
I still have more trimming to do, but now, at least, I've made a gap between the butterfly bush and the ornamental grasses. I can see where to trim and won't accidentally lop off a Buddleia branch. And I will be sure to wear protective gear.
When a butterfly rests on a blossom, my heart fills.
Wow Us Wednesdays