Saturday, June 11, 2011

The decision was made for me

   I have a confession to make. I have had a Butterfly Bush (Buddleia). I wasn't going to tell any of you out of fear I might be shamed. I'm trying to be a responsible habitat gardener with an emphasis on native plants, I had no idea when I planted it last year that it might be considered a bad thing.
   Buddleias are probably the first thing the average gardener plants when they decide to start gardening for butterflies. There it was, right in the middle of my butterfly bed, it was going to be my tall visual anchor along the front sidewalk. As I started to learn more about habitat gardening, I discovered what "non-native invasives" are, and Buddleia is on the list for Virginia. All these years I mistakenly thought Buddleia was native to the Pacific Northwest. I'd seen them growing "wild" there when visiting the Seattle and Snoqualmie area many years ago, they were in full bloom everywhere along the roadsides. Now I know what I really saw was an invasive non-native plant colonizing natural areas. So I had a dilemma, dig up my butterfly bush because it's on the invasive list for Virginia, or leave it because it doesn't seem to be a problem here in my part of the state? I've dug up Nandina, Autumn Olive, and Burning Bush with no remorse or regret, but Buddleia is such a great nectar plant, I couldn't decide and I felt guilty every time I looked at it.
   That brings us to Thursday. Boy, the butterfly bush looks awful. The leaves are yellowing, falling off, and the swamp milkweed next to it looks even worse. Oh no! Spider Mites! Crap! I've never had spider mites on outdoor plants before. Well, it looks like the decision on whether or not to keep this naughty non-native invasive was made for me. Since I don't and won't use pesticides, extraction seemed like the best remedy. Unfortunately, since it was also infected, I had to get rid of some milkweed, but I can buy more, and I can't have monarchs laying eggs on infected plants. Friday morning I went out and began carefully clipping the stems, trying not to shake them too much. I placed them in a trash bag, then scooped up all the surrounding mulch and any leaves that had fallen from the plants. Then I dug up the roots and carefully placed them in the bag also. After refilling the holes in the ground with soil and a light covering of mulch, I checked the other surrounding plants for mites. There were a few on the monarda fistulosa and agastache aurantaica, so very gently I rubbed each and every leaf on the plants, trying to smoosh any remaining mites. My fingers smelled great afterwards! The final step was something I read on the internet to do as a control, a hard blast of water to the plants, especially the undersides of the leaves. I'll repeat this until I don't see anymore for a while. It may take some time to truly eradicate the mites. I've always tried to avoid getting the leaves of plants wet for fear of powdery mildew, especially in that spot because I have two types of monarda there, but I'll trade spider mites for powdery mildew I guess. I sealed up the bag and into the trash can went my butterfly bush. Maybe the garden gods were trying to tell me something.....
   I still need a tall anchor for the space, so I grabbed an unused obelisk put it where the butterfly bush was, and I plan on planting a clematis virginiana on it, then maybe some more milkweed, maybe some joe-pye, I get to go plant shopping!

                                                       Spider Mites on the Milkweed

The naughty butterfly bush pre-extraction

Post-extraction, cut up, and in the trash

Lots of room for new plants!


  1. WOW! I picture you in full HAZMAT gear complete with tall rubber boots & gloves, goggles, 3' stainless tongs and a breathing apparatus. I am very sorry for your loss and look forward to seeing how you fill in the gaps...especially since Virginia is averaging 90+F and you live in a rain shadow!

  2. ~smile~

    I'm glad you posted about removing the butterfly bush...Surely you've educated those, who like you thought it would be a great addition. I hope you will enjoy your Joe Pye weed or whatever you decide to use for height.

    I still have a Japanese maple planted by a previous owner that I'd like to remove, but so far, I'm waiting to get a fairly large native tree to replace it.

    Again, great post...I think you are doing a service educating others. I hope it wasn't too difficult for you. :)