I didn’t intend to write a post about the benefits of gardening today, but life/circumstances took me by the hand and keyboard and positively pulled me in that direction. This happened because I took a scoop of birdseed out to the feeder around noon on Sunday, and after filling the feeder I looked to my left and noticed three self-seeded Buddleia plants growing in the patio rocks. They were clearly plants that grew over the summer but I only saw them now, in late December.

Two of the butterfly bush seedlings show up clearly in this photo, but above the one on the right there is another that blends in with the stone on this photo.

Two of the butterfly bush seedlings show up clearly in this photo, but directly above the one on the right, growing in the crack between two gray rocks,  there is another that blends in with the stone on this photo.

I will pull these seedlings out in a day or two, but as soon as I noticed them I knew that this would be my blog post for Monday. It was almost as if they were saying, “Hello! We have something to tell you!!” so yes, I have listened and will write about it here.

One of the benefits of tending a landscape is that you are given opportunities to think. Although we humans often operate on auto-pilot, there are many times in life when, if we’re willing, we can go beyond what we see to really explore further.  These three small Buddleia, aka butterfly bush, gave me the chance to think a bit more deeply about this plant, the natural world, and our gardens.

Some gardeners might just appreciate how great it is that some plants self-seed. “Free plants! Where shall we put them?” Others want to grow seeded plants on for awhile because there is always the chance that they may possess new and different growth habits which are desirable. This is, after all, how new cultivars are often discovered and brought into the marketplace.

But these three butterfly bush seedlings in my patio speak about more than possible new varieties. When I saw them in and among the rocks, growing happily after a summer-long drought, I immediately knew why this plant is considered possibly invasive in hotter climates. When I looked in the garden beds surrounding this patio there were no other seedlings to be seen. Only in the dry, hotter space of the rocks were these young plants found to be thriving. So lesson number one was that Buddleia is a plant could become problematic in hot, dry areas.

These seedlings also tell me, a gardener in the Northeast, how to best care for this plant. Give them the warmer, full sun locations where the soil is well drained, and the butterfly bush will be happy.

Finally, these three young shrubs speak to me about the importance of keeping my eyes open in the landscape, and the willingness to be a good editor of the garden. These Buddleia are growing in the wrong place…if I leave them there they will push up the patio stones and crowd my bistro table. It’s important that I thank them for their willingness to grow, and then pull them out.

Gardens give us so many opportunities to open our eyes and minds. On this, the darkest night of the year, I am grateful for all the intellectual light the landscape offers.


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