Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Butterfly Bush

We have a butterfly bush near the edge of our small "side yard". It has struggled a lot since we've moved here, first under the weight and shadow of the ever-growing multiflora rose, and under constant pruning from me trying to keep a clear path around this side of the house.

Then last winter we had two big snowstorms and I really thought the bush would not live. The rose bush and its mound of snow collapsed onto it, and several large branches were broken over the neighbor's fence. In the end the snow got to about four feet deep, and the butterfly bush completely vanished under it - not a leaf or a stick in sight. When the snow melted I could see that every branch was damaged and the trunk, which was formerly a solid mass for the first 3 inches out of the ground, had split to ground level.

I thought about cutting it down but I just couldn't bear it. This is such a beautiful plant and it really does draw in dozens of butterflies in July and August. I waited until the plant started to bud, then carefully removed the dead branches. Several branches that initially budded ended up dying later on, so I kept trimming. And, I cut down the multiflora rose bush. (This item has popped back up on my to-do list, as the bush is happily growing back.)

Amazingly, the butterfly bush has sprouted many new, strong, healthy branches and produced a lot of blooms this summer - several rounds of blooms, in fact.

The habit of the bush is not very pleasing right now, though. Where the trunk was split a part of both halves has survived, leaving the bush with an ugly gap in the middle and a branch that is hanging too low to mow under or walk around. I've thought about cutting this part off, but I'm not sure that would look any better, and maybe it would throw the plant off balance. It seems impractical to try to tape around the trunk.

I think maybe in the fall I will try cutting the low-hanging branch halfway back, in the hopes that this will encourage new branches to grow into the gap. And/or I may try putting some sort of cord between the two halves to hold them a little more together and maybe encourage the trunk to mend a little more. It seems unhealthy that it is still split and maybe encouraging the growth of more heavy branches on the low-hanging half will encourage it to split even farther.

I don't know, does anyone have any suggestions?

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