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Winter Carpet Flourishes in Spring

This article was first published on 14 Oct 2013.

Ajuga reptans

Ajuga reptans

Ajuga reptans, the common bugle, is a creeping perennial which forms a living carpet. The evergreen mats provide winter interest, and from early spring through into summer the whorls of usually blue flowers stand to attention above the green or purple foliage.

Being in the mint family, stems are square. These run along the ground, and root at each joint from where the leaves emerge, much like a strawberry, thus quickly forming a crowded colony. It is easy to keep contained in its allocated space by slicing a spade around its boundary and removing the erroneous plants.

Native to Europe, Iran and the Caucasus region, this species is very hardy and doesn’t mind a hard frost. It will grow in most soils and conditions, preferring a bit of shade, and coping with summer drought. It makes a fantastic ground cover and weed suppressant under deciduous trees, flowering while the trees’ branches are still bare. It makes a lovely foil for bulbs to be planted underneath.

There are many cultivars available which have been chosen for size, leaf shape, leaf colour and flower colour. Two of the larger cultivars which do well at the Dunedin Botanic Garden are  Ajuga reptans 'Jungle Beauty' with large dark green leaves and tall spikes of indigo flowers, and Ajuga reptans 'Catlin’s Giant' with its large bronze leaves setting off the blue flowers. They can both be seen growing in the Lindsay Creek borders and the Camellia borders in the lower garden.

Robyn Abernethy is the Rock, Water and Alpine Collection Curator at the Dunedin Botanic Garden