Butterflies now seem to be frequent visitors to my garden at this time of year. It is lovely to watch them land and stay a while on my plants. This year I plan to keep a closer eye on them to see how many types actually visit my Scottish garden. So far, I have seen the red admiral and the small tortoiseshell butterflies.
Some garden plants attract more butterflies than others. Probably the most well known plant, in gardens and parks, is the Buddleja. It is also more commonly known, not surprisingly, as the butterfly bush. There are many varieties available at nurseries and garden centres but the one I have chosen to grow is quite a compact plant and I liked its silver grey foliage. The butterfly in the photo above is of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, in my front garden, thoroughly enjoying a good feed on one of my buddleja flowers.
Verbena Bonariensis has become a very popular plant in garden centres over the last few years as it is seen used by many garden designers in show gardens. However, it too is a strong favourite for the butterflies. I have had in my garden for a number of years now. I grew my original plants from seed. However this plant isn’t always hardy with me so I have found myself lifting plants and keeping them in my small, unheated, greenhouse over the winter. It is perhaps likely as a result of being moved around my plants have really never ‘bulked up’. Therefore, my flowering stems have been limited which also makes them more vulnerable to strong winds too.
A few days ago I spotted three very bulky, good sized, verbena bonariensis plants with a large number of flowering stems in a local garden centre. I instantly wondered how many butterflies could be counted on these plants when fully in flower and soon after found myself loading them into the car!
Garden centres at this time of year often have many plants that are pot bound. When buying plants it isn’t often obvious that a plant is pot bound when the plant appears healthy. My plants were fine but in need of watering so I watered them a few times before I went to plant them today. However, the leaves began to look dried up and droopy and it wasn’t until I took them out of their pots that I realised why. They were incredibly pot bound as you will see in the photo above. Often the advice in this case is to tease the roots out a little but as my plants were already distressed I didn’t do this.
Instead, I dug a bigger hole and added plenty of my good garden soil before laying the plant in the hole. I then removed the rose head from my watering can and, as Alan Titchmarsh a UK television gardener would say, puddled them in. When the water drained from my puddles I refilled the hole with soil around the plants and watered again. My plants were to have a gravel mulch so after this was done I refilled my watering can, replaced my rose head and watered high above the plant so the withered stems would get a good soaking. They got two full watering cans this time.
Now, I will wait a few days to see if the plants pick up again. I am pretty confident that they will – but if necessary I will take much stronger action and do a bit of serious cutting back! I am optimistic though and look forward to seeing many butterflies on these plants.