Growing buddleja for butterflies

by Adam Pasco

I'm always looking to make my garden more appealing to wildlife, so I've been delighted by the number of peacock butterflies around this summer.

Peacock butterflyI'm always looking to make my garden more appealing to wildlife, so I've been delighted by the number of peacock butterflies around this summer. My buddleja has put on a superb flower display that's lasted for weeks. If any shrub is going to provide these beautiful insects with a warm welcome it's buddleia. 

And the butterflies have flown in from far and wide from what I can see. On warm days, the buddleja has acted as a local refuelling station, providing a rich source of nectar to keep these busy butterflies on the wing. Other flowers have played their part, but the tall and prominent stems of buddleja, each tipped by thick wand of bloom, provide a very visible stage for viewing butterflies.

While it's flowers they’re usually after, I managed to get a photograph of a peacock sunning itself on an ornament (above), showing-off with its wings outstretched. It was clearly enjoying the warmth of the summer sun, and it didn't object when I stuck my lens in its face. 

Of course, the peacocks haven't been alone. Their main companions have been the small tortoiseshell and the painted lady, having a well-earned holiday after its migration up from Africa earlier in the year. I've spotted an occasional red admiral, but don't think I've spotted any comma butterflies yet. There have been occasional cabbage white butterflies, too, but I hardly dare whisper their name in the same breath as the gorgeous peacock.

Good garden design will ensure the nectar keeps flowing with a continuous progression of nectar-rich flowers opening until late autumn. Late populations of our native butterflies should then be in good condition to search out sheltered sites to overwinter. Last autumn I was intrigued to watch a tortoiseshell butterfly land on a neighbour's roof, then quickly edge its way into a crevice, clearly finding a cosy spot that provided protection through winter.

After such a good summer for butterflies, their populations should have been boosted, so let’s hope for even more next summer.

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Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2009 at 16:05

The painted ladies just flocked to the Phuopsis this year and gatekeepers and commas galore were everywhere. The buddleia bushes have been very floriferous which helped lure them into my garden. Even the holly blue did well this year but the species which has been most evident was the brimstone yellow.

Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2009 at 19:24

yep spotted these guys in my garden in Co Louth Ireland usually we get painted Ladies but lots of peacocks this year

Gardeners' World Web User 26/08/2009 at 20:19

I've bought a white buddleia just to please the butterflies, also got agastache, hyssop and a few others to atttract them in, got lupins cos i love them and bumble bees seem to adore them

Gardeners' World Web User 28/08/2009 at 14:41

I am having real problems with parts f my garden simply dying. Leaves wither and go brown and yellow ( some have bite holes, especially the grape vine) casualtes nclude roses, vines,beans, tomatoes and an acer in a pot. Has anyone any suggestions? I have searched carefully for vine weavil but found none.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/08/2009 at 21:55

I too have enjoyed the sight of more butterflies this Summer! I live in Newcastle upon Tyne and the sight of a Peacock posing on the Echinacia was a particular delight. I managed to take several photographs. There was no reluctance to put on a splendid display for me. It was virtually within touching distance and the creature was at rest for several minutes. Ken Greatbatch

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