Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Silver-leaved Fountain Buddleja

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Yes, this is a buddleja—but it's in bloom in early June, not the usual July through September season of the regular Butterfly Bushes, which are all cultivars of Buddleja davidii

 

Fountain Buddleja, though, makes all the uncommon and astonishing choices.  It blooms in Spring but not in Summer.  And its wood is totally hardy, so there's no die-back to deal with in Spring.  And instead of the stiff up-and-outward branching of B. davidii, Fountain Buddleia branches walk the walk and talk the talk of its name: They weep, and seriously so.  Depending on how the bush is handled, they could even flow.

 

Fountain Buddleja, then, isn't just about flowers like those other Butterflies.  It's not even just about this cultivars gorgeous silver foliage, as pleasing as any olive's.  (But yes, no wonder the cultivar is 'Argentea':  Could these leaves be more silver?)

 

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This bush's most exceptional talents are in partnering with you, to create a number of striking sculptural and structural triumphs.

 

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I've got a pair of Fountains, and I'm training them the easiest way: Staking up to form a small weeping tree.  Give us a few years, and my Fountains will be sensational.

 

Need other even more adventurous options?  Read below.

 

 

Here's how to grow this unusual butterfly bush:

Latin Name

Buddleja alternifolia 'Argentea'

Common Name

Silver-leaved Fountain Buddleia

Family

Scrophulariaceae, the Scrophularia family?  And that would be?  Another name: the Figwort family?  And that would be?  Finally:  The Snapdragon family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 10

Habit

Unless trained, multi-stemmed, hay-stacky, weepy, broader than tall.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

Six to eight feet tall and ten feet or more wide.

Texture

Weeping, delicate—and, unless trained, a bit messy.  Long downward-arching stems would do a weeping willow proud, but on untrained plants there are too many of them, and in an asymmetrical and haystack fashion.

Grown for

the Spring flowers, such a surprise from the Summer flowers of the usual butterfly bushes, which are cultivars of B. davidii.  Those come in loads of colors—white, pink, blue, rose, purple—whereas B. alternifolia flowers are only in lavender or (so I hear, but haven't seen) pink.  Fine:  This is a plant that knows what it likes and it's sticking to it.  The tiny flowers, which are fragrant in addition to colorful, are in tight "popcorn ball" clusters of ten or so florets, with a score or more of the clusters along the outward-facing sides of the weeping stems.  So they're showy by virtue of sheer number as well as their stems' geometry of many downward arcs.  In bloom, the whole bush has a fizzy and fireworky energy. 

 

the small, narrow, silvery leaves are much, much smaller than those of B. davidii, and are reminiscent of the foliage of both willows and olives.   Even out of bloom, the shrub is striking.

Flowering season

Late Spring: early June here in Rhode Island.

Culture

Easy as long as the plant gets all possible sun, and is planted in well-draining or even sandy soil.

How to handle it

Silver-leaved Fountain Buddlejas are, to my eye at least, one of the 500 essential plants for any garden.  Outside its broad hardiness range—from Montreal to San Diego, for heaven's sake—I would even consider growing one in a pot and overwintering it in a cool greenhouse.

 

Wherever it's grown, I'd highlight its weepiness with some training.  The simplest option is to grow it as a standard.  After the bush has had a few years to get organized (be patient: young plants have none of the zero-to-sixty-by-August mindset of B. davidii), stake the biggest branch upright and then (gulp) lop off all the rest of the bush.  The plant will look spindly and aghast, so be reassuring and attentive by 1) continuing to tie the top to the stake, so you lengthen the trunk to five or six feet (or higher if you've got the yen), and 2) continuing to clip off the new sprouts that will pop up from the base of the bush, which is, of course, a buddleia, who as a tribe are always interesting in sprouting from the base.

 

But unless you live in Novosobirsk, Fountain Butterfly wood is completely hardy top to bottom, with none of the massive die-back typical of B. davidii.  And the branches that you let grow from the top of your young trunk will continue to lengthen and weep year by year.  That trunk will, in time, become truly trunky too: I've seen standards of Fountain Butterfly with trunks as thick as a supermodel's legs. 

 

Clip off branches that will, inevitably, volunteer from the trunk itself, and you'll have a stunning weeping tree.  That flowers in Spring. 

 

Fountain Buddlejas flower only that one time, in Spring, but this too is an opportunity not a limitation.  Cut off all the long weeping flowering stems right after the flowers are through.  This cleans the plant up dramatically, and also stimulates growth of new and particularly long and weeping stems.  Thanks to the silver foliage, these are showy right from the get-go, and continue to charm all season long.  And these are also the branches that will bear the flowers next Spring.

 

After you and your Fountain Buddleja standard are well established as a couple, you could even cut all the branches back to the top of the trunk when the blooming's done, not just those that have flowered.  In other words, grow your F-B as a pollard.  Then the canopy will be nothing but fresh new graceful weeping stems that Summer, as well as the following Spring.  Your weeping standard will be the ultimate in grace as well as detail.

 

AND, if you decide you'd prefer to have your F-B standard in a pot instead of in the ground, pollarding is the great convenience as well:  Pollard in late Fall, after hard frosts have forced most of the plant's leaves to drop, and it's, therefore, fairly dormant.  Then the plant will be vastly more compact and easy to handle as you lug it into shelter.  Given that Zone 5 (or even a sheltered Zone 4) hardiness, you should be able to store the pot in an unheated (but securely enclosed and out of the winter winds and drafts) location.  Easy!  Yes, pruning in the Fall means you've just removed all the stems that would otherwise bloom the following Spring.  But handling an already-clipped pollard during the shuffle indoors in the Fall is immensely easier than one that's still in "full weep."  And it takes up that much less room indoors over the Winter too.  And, remember, the flowering is only for those few weeks in Spring, whereas the fabulous weepiness is with you all Summer and Fall.)

 

Two other options for Fun with Fountain Buddlejas:  Train a pair of the bushes up and over a high arch or even a (small) pergola.  Or fan the bush out against a fence or wall.  Imagine the weeping and flowering stems "pouring" down from the arch or pergola.  Or the "wall of weep" you'd have if the F-B were fanned onto a wall or fence. 

 

In all cases, be firm about a serious clipping right after the flowers are through.  This is your chance to get rid of the flower stems as well as do any structural reconfiguring and training.  And always site the bush to give it all possible sun.  This keeps the gray foliage as silver as possible, and also maximizes the flowering.

Downsides

While the flowering and the weeping new stems that bear the flowers are always lovely, the bush overall is a mess if it's not trained one way or the other. 

Variants

The straight species has all the charm and potential of weeping and training and flowering, but the green foliage is boring compared to the silver-leaved variety.  Why any nursery would sell anything other than the silver-leaved is beyond me.

Availability

On-line, as well as at retailers

Propagation

Seed, as well as cuttings.

Native habitat

China.

 
 
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