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

Sage-leaved Buddleja

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Gray leaves that are felted white, with a blush of tan when young.  Wow!  Even so, sage-leaved butterfly bush is still a rarity in any New England garden.  One reason could be that reports of the limits of its cold-hardiness vary so much, from Zone 6 to Zone 8.  That's Michigan (with luck) to South Carolina. 

 

I'm keeping mine in a pot for a few years, and will root a few cuttings as insurance before I risk putting the mother plant in the garden.

 

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Woolly buddleja is slightly hardier, and with felt that's whiter-than-white all over.  One reason to try and try again with sage-leaf buddleja is that its flowers are reputed to be the most powerful as well as sophisticated of any butterfly bush—as if, wrote one source, Chanel had come out with a new perfume.  The flowers of woolly buddleja aren't particularly fragrant or showy, and are best pinched off when still buds. 

 

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My Buddleja salvifolia is big enough to flower this season.  Stay tuned for the fragrance follow-up.

 

 

Here's how to grow this fragrant tan-and-white beauty:


Latin Name

Buddleja salviifolia, synonym Buddleja salvifolia

Common Name

Sage-leaved Buddleja

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?

Shrub.  In Zone 6, a die-back that resprouts (if you're lucky) from the base.  Deciduous in Zone 7; often evergreen in Zones 8 and 9; evergreen in Zones 10 and 11.

Hardiness

Reports vary, from Zones 8 - 11 to Zones 7 - 9.  One nursery reports that the shrub is thriving in Michigan, which would be Zone 6 at the warmest.

Habit

Broadly upright, with typical Buddleja branching right from the base with equal measure of enthusiasm and awkwardness.  Only when the shrub is grown where it becomes deciduous in the cold months is the clumsy branching an eyesore. 

Rate of Growth

Very fast where solidly hardy.

Size in ten years

Twelve feet tall and wide, but nearly always much smaller because of recommended early-Spring pruning.  See "How to handle it" below.

Texture

The fuzzy stems and young foliage combine with a natural tendency to branch and rebranch, to make the shrub full and fluffy.

Grown for

its foliage: The backs of the fully-fledged leaves are white, thanks to profuse fuzz.  The fuzz is tan on newly-emerging leaves, which are folded together like hands of prayer:  The green top surface is hidden within, and the tan bottom surface is vertical and exposed.  

 

its young stems: These are also completely covered with white fuzz.

 

its flowers' fragrance: Reportedly the most penetrating as well as sophisticated of any Buddleja, as if Chanel had come out with a honey-scented perfume. 

Flowering Season

Summer into Fall, at the tips of new growth.  While the flowers of a given individual shrub are all the same color, there's plenty of variability shrub-to-shrub, from white to mauve to purple.  Alas, there aren't any named cultivars.  Buddleja roots readily from cuttings; if you come across a shrub of Buddleja salviifolia whose flower color you particularly like, beg a couple of stem tips from the owner.

Color Combinations

The woolly stems and leaves go with everything.  If you can stand to clip off the emerging flower spikes, you'll remove the only portion of Buddleja salviifolia that limits the shrub to surroundings that are pastel, let alone pink.  The subtle tan of the fuzz of emerging leaves can be harmonized with neighbors whose showy colors include brown and ebony.

Plant Partners

The bright-white portions of Buddleja salviifola cry out for at least one neighbor that's as dark as possible.  Choose from those that also appreciate all possible sun, drainage, and heat, such as Physocarpus opulifolius 'Summer Wine', Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak', Sedum 'Matrona', Hibiscus acetosella, and, if you're lucky enough to be gardening in Zone 7 and warmer, any of the deep-purple cultivars of Phormium tenax.

 

The need to grow Buddleja salviifolia in hyper-drained circumstances at the colder end of its range suggests that, for consistency of habitat alone, you include the shrub in a bed where you'll be trying out other drainage-fanatics such as hardy cacti and what are known as "woody lilies," such as Yucca, Hesperaloe, and Nolina.  If you're growing Buddleja salvifolia in a container, or if you're gardening in truly mild and dry climates, partner with Kalanchoe beharensis, whose immense fuzzy foliage has the exact same coloring: tan when young, gray white when mature. 

Where to use it in your garden

Buddleja salviifolia is deciduous except in the mildest climates, and like most Buddleja species and cultivars, the branching pattern that is revealed is nothing to crow about.  (And if you go all-out with overwintering—see "How to handle it: Another option—or two!"—a mound covered with cardboard isn't pretty, either.)  If possible, site this shrub where you don't need to be faced with it daily from November through March.  For the same reason, this isn't the shrub you'd likely use more than one of: There would be that much more awkward Winter twigginess to overlook.  That many more Is-that-a-beaver-house-in-the-middle-of-your-garden? mounds to keep out of sight.  Growing in-ground, Buddleja salviifolia is a novelty act; you'll probably only need one, enjoying the society of other drainage- and sun-loving pals. 

 

It's helpful to grow Buddleja salviifolia in a container, so that in late Fall you can move the shrub into shelter and also out of sight for the Winter.  Multiple containered specimens would be practical, too—although, of course, they require that much more lugging.

Culture

Absolutely full sun and well-drained soil.  Buddleja species and cultivars have no interest in shade whatsoever.

How to handle it: The Basics

Buddleja species and cultivars grow fast; there's no need to buy anything but a small starter size.  Plant in Spring, in any soil as long as drainage is excellent and the exposure to sun is unrelenting.  Because Buddleja salviifolia is usually hardy only in Zone 7 and warmer, drainage and heat are particularly important.

 

Let the shrub grow on its own its first season.  In Spring thereafter, wait until the shrub has started to develop new foliage, and then prune all branches back to their lowest pair of leaves.  If you have the momentum, keep track of how the shrub resprouts in response; if new leaves emerge farther down on any of the stubs, return with your loppers and cut off that much more of last year's wood. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two!

With your help, Buddleja salviifolia might be hardy in Zone 6.  Take advantage of all possible drainage:  Plant on a slope to maximize surface drainage, and plant in a bed that you've heavily amended with sand and gravel.  Take advantage of available sun and heat, if possible, by siting near a south- or west-facing wall.  That same wall will also give some protection from cold north wind.  

 

After hard frost has put the shrub into dormancy, shovel a mound of mulch or a sand/gravel mix over the base of the shrub.  If you've got the back-power and the material, make the mound ten inches high.  Cut off the branches where they protrude from the mound, so you can lay a sheet of cardboard atop it.  A sheet two or three feet square is plenty.  If there isn't a crease in it, make one, so the sheet slopes to either side like the roof of a split-level house.  The cardboard will keep Winter rain, ice, or snow from penetrating the mound.  Orient the cardboard against any prevailing wind, and secure it by placing two or three wood logs on top.  If needed, beef the mound up farther on the two open sides, so it extends right up to the peak of the cardboard.  The mulch baffles the wind but doesn't block it entirely, which will help evaporate moisture that might find its way under the cardboard. 

 

In Spring, remove the cardboard and expose the top few inches of the cut stems.  As the weather warms, remove the rest of the mulch.

 

Cuttings of Buddleja species and cultivars root readily; if you've mounded with a sand and gravel mix instead of with bark, you could leave most of the mound in place permanently.  As new shoots develop, they'll root into the sandy mound.  Increase the size of the mound each Fall; in a few years, your B. salviifolia will have become a multi-branched colony, growing from the best possible habitat in a climate at the cold end of its range.  Nonetheless, continue to create the cardboard roof each Fall.  Even in these ideal circumstances, your Buddleja is still growing in Zone 6; its full fantasy will always be Zones 8 and warmer.

 

I'm going to keep my Buddleja salviifolia in a container for a couple of years, so I can enjoy its Summer performance without worrying about its Winter demise.  If I have enough room in one of the raised sand-filled beds I'll be creating, I'll risk an in-ground trial.

Downsides

Buddleja salviifolia is hardy in Zone 6 only with ideal siting.

Variants

Despite the wide range of colors in the flowers of Buddleja salviifolia, I'm not aware of any named cultivars.  The Buddleja genus itself is positively rife with variants.  There are about 100 species, the majority of which are native to the New World, from the southern US to Chile.  Dozens of other Buddleja species are native to Africa and Asia; none is native to Europe or Australia. 

 

All Buddleja species and cultivars are woody; most are shrubs but there are a few trees in the genus, too.  Evergreen as well as deciduous varieties abound, and the flowers, usually fragrant, can be indigo, blue, purple, pink, yellow, or white.  There are currently no readily-available cultivars with blooms in true red or orange.  The foliage and, as with B. salvifolia, stems of some species and cultivars can be a show in themselves.

 

Buddleja davidii and its endless cultivars are, hands-down, the most popular, with variants from two-foot dwarfs to twelve-foot monsters.  B. davidii is so proficient at self-seeding that some locales have declared it a noxious weed.  Check with the USDA Cooperative Extension Service to find out its status where you garden.  Fortunately, there are now a few sterile cultivars to choose.  B. alternifolia 'Argentea' is unusual in blooming on old wood instead of new, so is pruned after blooming instead of before. 

 

On the list to add to my gardens:  B. lindleyana, which, like B. alternifolia, is so hardy it can be trained as a weeping tree; B. hemsleyana, which is similar in habit and hardiness to B. lindleyana, but a quarter the size; and B. colvilei, with the largest flowers of any Buddleja, and an uncharacteristic aversion to being pruned.  B. covilei needs to grow in a container year-round in New England; no-way-José would  it be hardy here.  B. colvilei becomes enormous; in England, it could shade a gazebo.  When mine threatens the roof of my greenhouse—let alone the strength of my back to lug it back and forth from the garden—I'll root a cutting or two and start over.

Availability

On-line and, rarely, at retailers.

Propagation

By cuttings and by seed.  

Native Habitat

Buddleja salvifolia is native to South Africa, and has been known to European horticulture since the 18th Century.

 
 
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