Buddleja alternifolia

This deciduous Chinese shrub (formerly spelt Buddleia) has the graceful habit of a weeping willow. A vigorous grower, it will reach 12 feet (3.6 m) or more in height in a few years, and in mid-summer the slender, arching branches will be entirely covered with clusters of small, mauve, scented flowers. When not in flower, the shrub is a waterfall of dove-grey, for the narrow, alternate, pale-green leaves are glaucous on the underside, while in the rarer form, ‘Argentea’, the effect is silver. Reginald Farrer. Famous authority on alpine plants, discovered the shrub in north-west China in 1915, and compared it to ‘a gracious small-leaved weeping willow’.

This buddleja needs a sunny position and will thrive in any good garden soil. The ideal place for it is on top of a bank, with the branches cascading down. It can also be trained as a small tree. It must not be pruned in spring, like the autumn-flowering 8. davidii, for it flowers on the wood developed the previous summer.

A shrub of such elegant habit and colouring looks best with harmonious, rather than contrasting, plants. The giant sea-kale, Crambe cordifolio, with its forest of tiny white flowers rising on tall stalks from large dark green leaves, looks well in front of it, and the equally tall meadow-rue, Thalictrum spec/os/ss/murn, with heads of fluffy yellow flowers, would complete a picture of pastel delicacy.

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