Civic Minded Gardening?

It’s just about time to prune the butterfly bushes.

I have a friend who is a master gardener. She would probably call them Buddleia Davidii. She’s amazing. A walking, talking gardening encyclopedia.  She knows the Latin names and growth cultures for scores of different plants and shrubs.  Her gardens are diverse, fragrant, and lovely.  She is also the president of our local garden club, and she is actively involved in beautification projects around town. Her civic minded approach to her gardening skills is enhanced by the fact she does not have to be involved in raising income for her family.  And our city benefits from her ministrations.   She encouraged me for quite some time to join the garden club, but I work full time, which leaves me with few precious hours to care for my own gardens, and the mid-day meetings are quite out of reach for me.

Anyway, I call the Buddleia Davidii by their common name, butterfly bush; which are so named because they are known to attract butterflies (fancy that!). I enjoy them because of their dramatic growth every year.  In the early spring they need to be pruned back to about 18-24”, so for about 8 weeks after pruning they look like lifeless remnants of a neglected garden plot. Then, before you know it, they start to sprout leaves and grow, slowly at first, but once they hit their pace, it is easy to see almost daily changes in these bushes, so that by the time late June rolls around, those odd looking clumps of wood are nearly 8 feet tall and almost as wide, fully leafed out and starting to bud up.  They are fairly late to blossom in my neck of the woods, which makes their purple addition to the garden especially appreciated after the wild rumpus of colors and textures of early June has subsided.

My next-door neighbor used to enjoy the butterfly bushes as well, before she moved west, but for a different reason.  As it turns out my butterfly bushes attract dragonflies.  One afternoon I was out pulling weeds or complimenting my flowers on their colorful costumes, or some other important task, and she wandered over to tell me that in late afternoon dozens and dozens of dragonflies will come around and feast on the dark lavender blossoms of my bushes.  She enjoyed watching them so much, she made a date with herself to watch the dragonflies in my garden a couple of afternoons a week while enjoying a glass of iced tea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was very pleased to learn about the dragonflies, and I am also happy that my neighbor was fortunate enough to be able to meander freely throughout her yard (and mine??) on a weekday afternoon, but deep inside, way behind the cheerful smile and the heartened response, I was jealous, hurt even.  It felt remotely like it did the day I went to pick up JT at the child care center after a long day’s work, only to learn that she had taken her first steps, and it was not my eyes, my face, and my arms she was trusting on that initial risky business called walking.  I’ll always wish that JT could have waited until after work to walk for the first time, but that night she also took her first steps with me, and we have been traveling companions and celebrating each other ever since.

And I’m OK with the dragonflies too.  It seems I had been civic minded all along, without even knowing it, just by being a gardener.