Plottings: Your Garden Now

Butterflies, drought and late summer colour

Now that the hottest weather is mostly behind us for this year, we can start to plant ready for next year.  If you have a sunny, reasonably well-drained area in your garden, why not create a butterfly border? It will provide you with flowers to enjoy from mid-summer right through to the first frosts.  Tip: for butterflies, a drift of suitable plants is more attractive than just the odd plant dotted around the garden.

The internet is awash with lists of butterfly plants, dry-garden plants etc. So this post is strictly for plants that tick all the boxes: drought-tolerance, July-onwards colour, and of course those winged beauties.

Tall plants: 
1. Buddleja (of course).  Black Knight, Royal Red, Empire Blue and White Profusion all grow up to 3 metres (and are best pruned back quite hard in March).  Dwarf varieties include Sugar Plum, and any with Nanho or Pixie in the name. These are well behaved, staying below 1.5m.
2. Verbena bonariensis.  Up to 2m tall, the purple heads are packed with nectar. Will spread and self seed into fabulous drifts if it likes your site. The need for a sheltered spot is a bit of a myth - it loves our windy plant area. Never cut down the dead flower stems before Spring (April is usually safe).  There is also a compact version, 'Lollipop' which only grows to about 2' max. - ideal for very windy sites, or if you want them nearer the front of a border.
3.  Giant scabious (cephalaria gigantea).  Stunning pale creamy-lemon flowers look gorgeous against an evergreen backdrop, twining through shrubs or mingling with verbena at the back of your border. This one is more of a June-August flowerer, but can keep going into September if you deadhead and the weather is good. Like the verbena it is quite airy and see-through; it may need support if very exposed and no other plants to support it.
4. Eryngium 'Big Blue'.  A stunning sea holly; yet another 'airy' plant. Drought makes them bluer.
5. Echinops.  Forms huge clumps of fabulous globe shaped flower clusters that are a magnet for bumblebees as well as butterflies. A must for a medium or large sized garden.

Medium plants (2 ft -4' 6" approx):
1. Achillea (yarrow). Available in a subtle rainbow of colours, from lilac through cerise, terracotta, lemon-cream and many shades between. A lovely plant, will spread and look fabulous with grasses such as stipa tenuissima.
2. Lavender:  A drift of this in your garden is a must if you have space. Lots of cultivars to choose from, including white if you prefer it. The latest addition to our range is 'Kew Red'.
3. Echinacea (coneflower). Traditionally purple but white or some lovely peachy-orange shades are all great. Height varies by cultivar so check the label when buying.
4. Oregano 'Herrenhausen' or 'Rosenkuppel' are stunning in pollinator-magnetic drifts (although not great forn eating). Very easy to grow.
5. Aster frikartii 'Monch': Probably (no - definitely) the best aster of all, especially for butterflies. Mildew resistant and long-flowering!
6. Agastache (giant hyssop) Black Adder or Blue Fortune.  Excellent drought and heat tolerant once established; Blue Fortune is better at surviving cold and wet than other agastaches.

Smaller plants:
1. Sedums: Tough as old boots, sedum plants are some of the most drought resistant there are. Some are tallish -  - but there are numerous beautiful, short ones that make great edging and ground cover, providing a feast for pollinators until late autumn.
2. Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'.  This lovely scabious is an absolute butterfly-magnet, and flowers for months on end especially if dead-headed.  Small scabious (wildflower) is also very garden-worthy - if anything, it grows bigger than 'Butterfly Blue'.
3. Nepeta 'Walker's Low'. Stunning blue flowers.  Like the taller catmints, it is deer-and-rabbit-resistant and fine in exposed sites. This one is compact enough for front-of-border positioning.
4. Eryngium 'Blue Hobbit'. A gorgeous little sea holly, very blue, compact and free-flowering.
5. Winter savory. White flowers in autumn, compact and mound-forming, this is one of the toughest cookies in my garden - having survived on a dusty, rabbit-infested, stony, slopey area for the past year! Aromatic and edible ... an under-rated, underused plant. One to seek out ... it looks great planted with red sedums such as Dazzleberry.


Website by The Visual Works Illustrations by Katy Alston