Friday, July 1, 2011

Revenant Returnings

Our vocabulary word for the day is "revenant," a new word (at least to me) that is defined in the Free Online Dictionary as:  1) One that returns after a lengthy absence, and 2) One who returns after death.

Buddleia 'Black Knight'
I discovered the term in a search to describe what had occurred when my truant 'Black Knight' butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight') suddenly popped up this year again after skipping out last year entirely.  I've seen a similar circumstance or two where a plant barely hangs on for a year or more and then seems to regather its energy and burst forth, but I've never seen one just disappear for a year and then regrow.  At least I think it was missing last year and believe me, I searched.  It is in a spot surrounded by early peonies and late goldenrods, and although I looked several times for it last summer, the last time I saw this bush was in 2009.  Given the drought at the end of last year, I had given up on this handsome little bush entirely, but a few days ago it bloomed again, confirming the strength and the vitality of the life force within.  I know that the Butterfly Bush can reseed and it is actually considered invasive in some regions, but I've never had one reseed before in Kansas and this plant is in the same exact spot as the original.

In Kansas, Buddleia seem to be hit-and-miss perennials.  They usually die back in winter nearly to the ground and regrow each summer.  I've grown a number of cultivars, but although some seem to hang around for a few years, eventually most of them have succumbed to the combination of my lack of special care and the Flint Hills environment.  I've grown the diminutive 'Petite Purple' twice in two different spots and both times it has not made it into the 4th year.  I was fond of light blue and very fragrant 'Lochinch' and had high hopes for it since it thrived for 6 years in one spot, but then it died during a seemingly mild winter.  The current 'Black Knight' is my second.   Pretty yellow 'Honeycomb' didn't even make it to her third year, nor did 'Nanho Blue' or 'Pink Delight'.  The only consistently hardy Buddleia that I have grown is 'White Profusion', a large-flowered pure white variety that reaches approximately 6 feet tall each season.  'White Profusion' has survived now 10 years in the same spot in my landscaping, so I think I can recommend this one for Flint Hills gardeners without reservation.  Butterflies flock around it in late July and August and I love the delicate perfume as I walk by it.

If you'd like to see a pseudo-miracle of resurrection in action, then come over and see my 'Black Knight'.  I'm hoping it decides to hang around a few years this time because I'm really not that fond of ghosts or guests who appear and disappear without warning.


  1. Had nanho replaced this year. Made it two years, then gone. Also planted two pink delight, one was a gift. This heat is great isn't it?

  2. Yes, the heat is a killer. I venture out from 5:30 to 6:30 in the morning and haven't touched the garden in the evening. Breaking my rules this morning by watering like crazy; three beds being watered. We're barely up to normal rainfall after last summer's drought and I've discovered the soil down deeper is pretty dry.

  3. Professor, sounds pretty miraculous to me, but it's hard to be revenant when your roots have been pulled out. I had two beautiful yellow buddleia, but the second year they just looked awful, few leaves, fewer flowers and lots of dead stems. So I yanked 'em. Just as I had been warned, they had nematodes.


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