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Ajuga – Fast Spreading Groundcover for Beneath Trees & Difficult Areas

Need a fast spreading drought proof groundcover that will grow beneath trees?

Chocolate Chip Ajuga is an attractive deer proof groundcover that nestles in nicely between pavers, under trees, and other hard to grow areas in sun or shade

Ajuga or Bugleweed is easy to grow and virtually maintenance free perennial groundcover for hard to grow places.  I’m particularly fond of Chocolate Chip Ajuga (‘Valfredda’) where it can easily cover an 18” area in just one season.  It is one of my favorite ground covers beneath trees where other groundcover struggle and it looks great year-round!

Ajuga is a deer proof evergreen groundcover with vibrant foliage and showy purple flowers in spring. Low growing mats are only 3” tall. Hardy to Zone 4-9,  It thrives in both sun and shade.

Growing anything under trees can be difficult. First of all, trees create a “rain shadow” where it is always drier beneath a tree.  Secondly, some trees such as maples, poplars and willow have heavy feeder roots that rest near the surface, making it virtually impossible to grow, let alone even dig a hole for planting.

Beware of Ajuga Lawn! If planted close to turf, Ajuga will spread into your lawn which becomes difficult to eradicate.

Ajuga is ideal with its  shallow roots that grow within just a few inches of the ground.  It competes effectively between tree roots and drier conditions while spreading quickly by way of runners. Runners are easily removed if it gets beyond its bounds.

Ajuga is not a groundcover for everybody or to be placed in a mixed perennial border.

Ajuga is one of the best groundcovers for weed control. Weeds find it tough to sprout through their thick root system.

Ajuga Tips

  • Avoid “Ajuga lawn” by planting away from  turf or you’ll have a co-mingling of lawn & Ajuga.
  • Don’t plant anything nearby unless you are using beneath shrubs or trees.
  • Thick root system makes Ajuga ideal for erosion control
  • Ideal between pavers
  • Excellent for large areas where you want to have a quick spread
  • Ideal under shallow rooted trees where nothing else will grow

Related Articles

Growing Plants Under Walnut Trees

8 Best Shade Loving Groundcovers

Problem Solving Plants for Slopes & Banks

Where to Shop for Ajuga Chocolate Chip

Brunnera Jack Frost – 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year – Growing Tips

Silver foliage Brunnera combines effortlessly with so many other shade plants

Since its discovery, Brunnera Jack Frost PP 13,859  has won numerous awards including Perennial Plant of the Year in 2012 and Best New Perennial of the Year at Plantarium, The Netherlands.  Jack Frost has warmed the hearts of many gardeners both new and experienced.   I can’t think of a more beautiful deer proof shade plant and one that is so adaptable in perennial garden design.

Few shade perennials have such interesting silver foliage throughout the season.  This clump forming perennial is  a versatile groundcover grows 15-18″ tall x 15-18″ wide.   Hardy to zone 5 (probably hardier)

In spring, small oblong leaves gradually grow into larger heart-shaped leaves after the conclusion of the flowering period. Beautiful, wispy panicles of sky blue flowers appear in early spring.

How To Grow

  • Does best in moisture retentive soil in part shade.  In my area of the country (Michigan) it can take some pretty dry shade.
  • Plant in area where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade.  Watch for too much sun or hot spots.
  • Don’t worry that the leaves are small in spring – they will get much larger (5-8″ across) as the plant grows.
  • Best in moist soil.  Add 3 inches of mulch to keep moist
  • If you notice crispy leaf edges – plants are getting too dry.  I ofte  cut these leaves all the way back. Plants might stay dormant for a while before flushing out with new foliage growth.
  • Cut back blooms after fading.  Plants stays more attractive that way.

Here’s what you’ll love about this plant

  • Silver shade plant.   Why is that important? Silver infuses light into dark corners of theDeer proof Jack Frost Brunnera for the shade garden shade garden
  • Foliage stays colorful and attractive throughout the season
  • Blue flowers in spring – which compliments spring blooming bulbs
  • Easy to grow – Prefers consistent moisture
  • Low Maintenance
  • Deer & Rabbit Resistant
  • No serious insects or disease issues
  • Late evening gardening – still visible at dusk
  • It’s just plain gorgeous!

Stay tuned for our  hands on Garden Design Tips with Brunnera in our next article

Read more:

Garden Design with Brunnera Jack Frost

Brunnera Jack Frost

Garden Design with Brunnera Jack Frost

Brunnera works well in containers. Here it is combined with Heucherella, Pulmonaria and Ornamental Grasses

When it comes to my favorite shade plant, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost ’ PP13,859 easily comes to the top of my list.  Few shade perennials have such interesting silver foliage through the season.  This clump forming plant is  a versatile deer proof groundcover that is widely adaptable to numerous shade garden designs such as woodland settings, near ponds – even containers.

I can’t think of a more beautiful plant to be named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2012 than Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’.

The foliage resembles crackled porcelain.  In the shade garden it creates a shimmering silver contrast against other companion plants.

Here are a few Garden Design Tips to make Brunnera work for you your shade landscape.

Brunnera is a delightful transition or "filler" plant between shrubs in the landscape

Container Gardening.  This is an easy shade container plant!  I like using big pots when it comes to containers. Keep pots consistently moist.  In the event plants wilt or the foliage begins looking tatty, simply trim off old foliage and new fresh foliage will emerge later.

Transition or Filler Plant.  Brunnera is a delightful shade plant in garden design to transition or fill in between two large shrubs or perennials.  This gives a wonderful flow to the garden.

Pair the gorgeous  Brunnera as an under-planting to  red Japanese Maples. To extend bloom time in the garden pair Spring blooming Brunnera  with summer flowering Hydrangea.

Combine Brunnera with narrow leaf Hakonechloa and radiant yellow Heucherella Stoplight

Dark Foliage Plants.  You can really make dark-leaf Heucheras, Red Coleus or other dark foliage plants pop with color when combined with silver Brunnera. Dark and light foliage plants pair well in garden design.

Leaf Shape Combinations. The heart-shape foliage of Brunnera contrasts with narrow leaf forms of  shade Ornamental Grasses such as  of Hakonechloa or Carex.   I love combining Brunnera with with soft, airy-texture of Ferns.

Brunnera pairs well with dark foliage plants

Have Sun? Plant on the east side of the house, near a large boulder or large plant . Anywhere you can find shade from the afternoon sun.

Brunnera is such a terrific shade plant. I sincerely hope you included it in your garden design plans if you haven’t done so already!

More info:

How To Grow Brunnera

Brunnera Jack Frost – Where to Buy

The Best of Both Worlds!

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary

Earliest blooming Hellebore!

I never thought I’d live to see the day that we were able to grow a true PINK flowered Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), but famed English hybridizer David Tristram has finally accomplished his goal!

After many years of careful hand-crossing Helleborus niger with Helleborus x hybridus, David was finally successful in creating a true inter-specific cross.

It was originally thought that these two different species would never cross with each other, however Mr. Tristram has proved this theory wrong.

Helleborus Winter Thrillers Mix

Vast flower colors of Helleborus x hybridus

As you can see from the picture on the right, Helleborus x hybridus comes in a wide variety of flower colors, shapes, and sizes. Whereas the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger is a pristine, clear white in color.

Walberton’s Rosemary Hellebore is a superb hybrid between these two that now gives gardeners the “Best of Both Worlds”! We get the rich pink flower color from the xhybridus parent and the 3 month earlier bloom time from the niger parent.

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary, superb deer proof shade plant

Deer proof shade plant Walberton's Rosemary Hellebore

We’ve just finished Halloween here in western Michigan and our plants of Walberton’s Rosemary are coming into full bloom! WOW! I’ve never seen another Hellebore bloom this early in the year.

As you can see from the picture on the left, the hybridization process has also produced a plant with superb vigor! Christmas roses can be a bit tricky to grow in the home garden, but when Mr. Tristram crossed it with the vigorous x hybridus, he greatly improved its garden vigor.

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary

Tremendous flower power of Walberton's Rosemary Hellebore

As you can see from the image on the right, this new hybrid has tremendous flower power! I shot this picture at Skagit Gardens before this plant had been released several years ago. I was simply amazed at the huge number of blooms on these 2 gallon specimen containers!

Congratulations to Mr David Tristram for all his years of dedicated hard work! His new Walberton’s Rosemary Hellebore brings another new realm of great garden possibilities to our favorite and Colorful Deer Proof Shade Hellebores!

Fragrance in the Shade Garden with Visions Astilbe

Fragrant Astille Visions  Hostas are perfect partners

The most highly FRAGRANT Astilbe!

Astilbe Visions is one of the most FRAGRANT groundcovers that thrive in shade and moist soils.  Graceful, colorful raspberry flowers create a bold statement in midsummer growing 15″ tall.

Delightful when planted in groupings near a walkway where you can really enjoy their fragrance.  I love to combine spiky Astilbe with bold leaf Hostas here in my former Michigan garden where they make a wonderful contrast.  When not in bloom Astilbe makes a superb carpet of elegant green foliage which nicely bridges my larger Hosta plants keeping the weeds at bay while filling in the garden.

After flowering you can trim down the flower stalks or leave them for winter interest.  I’ve grown a wide number of Astilbes over my gardening years, and Visions remains one of my favorite for ease of growing, fragrance, colorful flowers and attractive foliage.

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