Monday, August 31, 2015

Rescued Butterfly Bush

Freshly transplanted Butterfly Bush

One of the things we love to do when we visit the 'big box' home improvement stores towards the end of a season is to look for the bargains.  It's the best time to buy 'seasonal' stuff that you know you'll use next year anyway.  Most of my gardening tools that we've bought new (most of our tools are actually either my grandma's or are from thrift stores) were from sales like that.  It's part of making gardening financially sustainable. 

Even better is when we find plants languishing on the 'clearance' racks.  The poor things! We are sorely tempted to buy the whole rack of them, but usually manage to restrain ourselves to getting the ones that look like they are more likely to survive after a little TLC.  In this case, we found a shrub with very few broken branches, a well developed main stem, no signs of disease (such as weeping bark, weird growths or galls etc) and dry, but relatively well developed leaves.  This one also had only a couple of previous flowers on it which is good in this case as a profusion of flowers tends to indicate that the plant is really stressed and attempting to ensure the survival of its kind by throwing all of its remaining resources into seed production. This process of looking the plant over critically is kind of like triage for plants. 

This season, one of the plants we've rescued is this Butterfly bush
Buddleia davidii.  It's a perennial that will die back to the root crown after a hard freeze and then grow back up the next spring to be about two or three feet tall, assuming of course that they have adequate root reserves.  If the plant is under-watered and stressed the growing season before it freezes, it will just die.  If we don't have any hard freezes during the winter (which sometimes happens here) it will continue to grow and get to be a bigger plant.  Though they start out small when we buy them, these are true shrubs and can get to be around 15 feet tall and about 10 feet wide if people don't prune them to death and if they are planted in a good spot with protection from North winds yet still enough room between the trunk and the nearest hard, immobile structure or walkway to grow.  With perennial plants, a good deal of thought put into where and how it is planted will give you a healthy plant. Lack of planning gives you either a dead plant in the near future or a headache of a plant that is always 'in the way'.  

This little gal that we've rescued has the start of a true trunk with a layer of grey, corkey, shredded bark, so she's probably two to three years old as it takes a while for the bark to develop.  She'll probably start sprouting new stems from the base at some point, which we'll let her do.  We hate to prune plants up to fit some preconceived idea of what they should be rather than what they naturally are.

This plant is developing a true trunk but may sprout from the base later

Butterfly bush has striking, dark green leaves with silvery bottoms, thanks to a thick coating of short wax 'hairs' on the abaxial side of the leaf blades. The leaves are small, thin, lanceolate and entire with slightly serrate margins.  They are one of those plants that are lovely to have around as they don't drop their leaves very often and when they do, the leaves are so small that they don't tempt people to rake them up.  It's namesake comes from the beautiful purple (sometimes white) clusters of tiny flowers.  The flowers are tubular with four tiny petals at the fringes of the tube.  Hummingbirds, butterflies and other flying, nectar sucking critters love these flowers, so hopefully, this plant will act as a natural humming bird and butterfly feeder and we'll start seeing more of those lovelies in our yard again.  At our previous residence, we had Salvia bush growing nearby which is also a great plant for these creatures to feed on. 
Remnants of a previous flower stalk

Hopefully, ours will have flowers like this on it someday

We found this plant in a tiny little pot that was barely big enough for it, as evidenced by all the roots that were starting to emerge from the soil in the top of the pot and to circle the bottom of the inside of the pot.  When we transplanted her, we gently broke those circling roots up and pruned the tips of them off to encourage them to start growing outwards into the soil-less media that we put in the current pot.  We chose soil-less media because that was what was in the pot that we bought.  It's best to try to minimize barriers created by sudden changes in soil texture and structure when transplanting as water doesn't travel very well from one type of soil into another type that is quite different from it.  When that happens, you wind up with lots of water in the pot, but a dry rootball.  The pot that we transplanted it into is large enough that it can stay in there until the bush is recovered from the shock of the poor treatment it was getting at the store and from being transplanted. She'll also benefit from being in the shade of a little palm tree Washingtonia filifera on the East side of the house until she's a bit bigger and stronger.

Later on, when the shrub begins to grow larger and the branches start hanging over the edge of the pot, we'll consider locations to plant it.  There's a good spot for it along the North end of the West facing wall where it will get partial shade from the house and nearby oleanders in the afternoon and it will get protection from the North wind in winter.  We'll never put planting stakes on her as we've learned that trees and shrubs actually grow stronger and more stable without them, especially if you don't prune all the lower branches off in a misguided attempt to 'train' it into being a miniature, mature looking tree.  We may build a raised bed for it at that time so that we can give it amended soil and plenty of rooting space more easily.  That will be an interesting adventure that we're looking forward to sharing with you on here.  

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