Black Scallop AjugaAjuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ (PP# 15,815)
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Need a reliable and attractive groundcover for those difficult spots? Black Scallop Ajuga is your answer, reliable and hardy in almost every zone, the ground-hugging rosettes of evergreen leaves are such a dark red they are almost black. Turn boring bare soil into a dark glossy carpet, and enjoy the beauty of the intense, bright-blue flowers that rise magically in spring to play their bugles of welcome. Use it anywhere in your garden where the soil is bare, planting it in drifts beneath shrubs and trees or in problem places, like awkward narrow strips between paths and walls or fences. Looks great in every garden style, from natural and cottage gardens to formal areas behind boxwood hedges.
It is amazing the different light levels Black Scallop Ajuga is happy in. From full sun to light full shade, such as north shadows and dappled shade beneath trees – it is happy anywhere. Moist but well-drained soils are best, but it will grow in wet ground in cooler zones, and in dry spots, but it isn’t ideal for very dry areas. Pests, diseases and deer leave it alone. Run the mower over it after flowering if you want extra-neat, but otherwise just let it be – it’s self-maintaining. Although it does creep around a bit it is shallow-rooted and easily controlled.
Ajuga, or Bugleweed, is a fabulous ground cover plant that is virtually guaranteed to solve your worst ‘bare earth’ garden problems. You know how it goes – some parts of the garden, especially an established one, just won’t grow anything – they are too shady and dry, or too damp and shady. Well, take a lesson from nature and grow a plant that grows naturally across the floor of shady woodlands – yes, that’s right, Ajuga. For a dense, leafy covering that transforms the drabbest corner, this is the answer. For a superb dark, glossy carpet, choose the Black Scallop Ajuga, a reliable plant with rich foliage color year-round. It will cover every inch of soil within a couple of seasons, and you will be amazed at the effect. You will also be amazed in spring, when it transforms itself for a few weeks into a magical cloud of sky blue, as if the spring sky was being reflected in water. Short flowering spikes grow up, carrying a profusion of blue flowers, and for such a small, modest plant, the impact is impressive. For the rest of the year the red-black leaves do a great job of hiding that dirty ol’ dirt.
The Black Scallop Ajuga is a small perennial plant. Each individual plant consists of a rosette of leaves, with each leaf being narrow at the base and filling out into a rounded end that’s held horizontal, with an overall shape like a spoon. Leaves are about 2¼ inches across. The edges of the leaves are scalloped and the surface has a slightly crinkled texture. It is glossy and smooth, and colored a rich, very dark red that is almost purple. These small rosettes of leaves are connected by short stems, no more than 1-inch long, forming an endless network of plants, with each new one rooting as it develops. So plants gradually spread outwards to form a dense carpet over the soil. Although it expands, it is almost never invasive, as the growth is gradually, measured in inches, not feet. The leaves are amazingly cold resistant, and stay fresh through frost and cold, emerging perfectly happy in spring from beneath even a dense carpet of snow.
In early spring, almost as soon as the snow has gone, 8-inch flower stems push rapidly up, carrying many small violet-blue flowers – a stronger, darker blue than old-fashioned Ajuga you might already know. This variety doesn’t produce seeds, so these mainly collapse into the foliage after flowering.
This plant is an incredible ground cover for a wide range of conditions. It’s ideal home is beneath large deciduous shrubs and trees, where it will soon form a dense carpet. To establish it, space plants across the area a foot apart – you will have a solid carpet within a couple of growing seasons. Use it as a lawn replacement in shady areas where it won’t be walked on much – perhaps a small city back courtyard. You can also use Black Scallop Ajuga in shady rock gardens, and for foreground and low planting among ferns and other shade tolerant perennials – alone or with other plants it always looks great. It is also great for growing in the cracks between large paving slabs in an informal ‘crazy paving’ terrace, or along a shady path. It fills the narrow spaces in terraced retaining walls too, and everywhere you have small or large spots to fill, where you don’t want height.
Even hardy in zone 3 – although there you may lose some leaves over winter, the amazing Black Scallop Ajuga grows anywhere in the country that isn’t too dry – it doesn’t mind humid heat.
In cool zones Black Scallop Ajuga will grow in full sun if the soil is moist. Elsewhere it is best in partial shade, with perhaps some morning sun, or in light full shade. It’s ideal beneath deciduous trees and shrubs, surviving but not doing as well beneath evergreens. Although reasonably drought-resistant, it does best with soil that is not dry for too long, and grows well even in poorly-drained soil.
You can leave the Black Scallop Ajuga alone for years and it will be just fine. If it gets untidy, set your mower to high and run over it just as the flowering comes to an end. You don’t need to rake up the clippings, and fresh new leaves will soon fill in. No other care is needed, and any pieces that escape their space are easily removed. Deer don’t bother it and neither do any significant pests or diseases.
There are about 40 species of Ajuga, but garden plants are all forms of Ajuga reptans, a plant that grows in meadows and deciduous woodlands. It can be found wild throughout Europe and North Africa, and through the Middle East into Iran. Wild plants have dark-green leaves, but most garden varieties have reddish to brownish leaves. The variety called Black Scallop was developed by Michael Tristam at his Walberton Nursery in Arundel, England. He was growing plants of an older variety called Braunherz when he saw one that had larger leaves and more vigorous growth. He isolated that plant and studied it, showing it was indeed different – and superior. He named it ‘Black Scallop’ and it was granted a patent in 2005.
There is almost certainly a place in your garden which the Black Scallop Ajuga can transform. Nothing makes a garden look fuller and more complete than covering every inch of the soil with plants, and this one is perfect for many different spots. This is the time to fix those spots that have troubled you for years – order now, while our supplies hold up.