Chocolate Chip AjugaAjuga tenorei ‘Valfredda’
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If ordinary bugleweed is too big for you, then Chocolate Chip Ajuga is exactly what you want. A dwarf form, it grows only 2 or 3 inches tall, spreading to perhaps 18 inches across – perfect for small spaces or pots. The rounded scalloped leaves are chocolate brown flushed with burgundy, and have a charm that is perfect close-up in a pot, underneath a flowering shrub, in a rock garden or tucked among ferns and other plants in a shady corner. Perfect for town gardens as well, it is highlighted in spring by 6-inch spikes of purple-blue flowers that become more charming the closer you get to them. Easy-care and adaptable – the solution when ‘small’ is ‘just right’.
Chocolate Chip Ajuga can be relied on to grow almost anywhere, from full sun in cooler areas to light full shade anywhere at all. It isn’t fussy about soil either, growing in just about anything that isn’t totally dry all the time – a little moisture is appreciated from time to time. It doesn’t have pest or disease problems and those deer and rabbits usually give it a miss – so low-maintenance gardening here we come. You can trim off the flower spikes if you want, but hey, no-one is checking up on you.
Ajuga is a great ground cover plant, and one with lots of charm. It’s more suitable, though, to medium and large areas, but that doesn’t mean, if you have small spaces to fill, that you should forget about it. No, instead choose your variety carefully, and for small spaces, the Chocolate Chip Ajuga could easily be just what you want. It has the same attractive rounded leaves, glossy and fresh, as others, and the rich chocolate-brown leaves flushed with red are gorgeous. But it is more compact, and makes just a small plant hardly more than a foot across, spreading slowly and so with almost no potential to become invasive. One plant might do the job perfectly, or plant a few to fill a slightly bigger space. It is short too, just a couple of inches off the ground, and the flower stems are certainly lovely, with their blue-purple flowers, but they only stand about 6 inches tall. Because the growth is compact, it makes a very dense covering, looking very neat, and it’s perfect for filling narrow spaces, or edging smaller parts of your garden. If you love Ajuga, but worry about it becoming a nuisance, we’ll bet you a box of cookies that the Chocolate Chip Ajuga will be your friend.
Chocolate Chip Ajuga is a small perennial, evergreen plant, forming dense rosettes of leaves, standing about 3 inches tall. Each rosette is a dense cluster, joined to the next with a short stem, and it spreads outwards to perhaps 18 inches across, or more in time. Because the stems are very short, it produces a very tight, compact carpet, with no spaces, looking neater and smaller than other varieties of Ajuga. The leaves are spoon-shaped, showing only the upper, rounded part, which is about one inch across. The edges are neatly scalloped, and the surface is slightly crinkled, glossy, and smooth. The leaves are dark chocolate brown, flushed with deep red, especially on new growth. The overall effect is rich, warm and very attractive.
In spring, usually during May in most zones, this plant blooms, sending up short, 6-inch spikes above the leaves. Each one has a few small leaves on it, and whorls of many buds, opening into tiny but fascinating irregular flowers. These have a broad lower lobe in three-parts, perfectly designed by evolution as a landing-pad for pollinating insects, which flock to this plant, as do easy butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers are a rich purple-blue, looking lovely and making a wonderful carpet across the space you have planted.
With its more compact, dense and controlled growth, the Chocolate Chip Ajuga is the perfect ground cover for smaller spaces. Plant it in the cracks between random paving, or in narrow ledges of retaining walls. Plant it in pockets of a shady rock-garden, or beneath shrubs on a slope. Grow it in containers beneath shrubs and small trees, or use it to edge smaller beds anywhere in your garden. It grows well beneath deciduous shrubs and trees, and looks good in highly-organized plantings, and also in semi-wild areas.
Chocolate Chip Ajuga grows across almost all of the country, from Zone 4 all the way into zone 10. It does best in states with good rainfall through spring and summer. In cold zones you will be amazed how it reappears in spring looking fresh and lively, as soon as the snow begins to melt away.
Although you can plant the Chocolate Chip Ajuga in full sun in cooler zones if the soil is always moist, it does best everywhere in partial shade, with morning sun. This keeps the leaf color strong, and means plenty of flowers in spring. It also grows well in the light dappled shade beneath deciduous trees and shrubs, enjoying the brighter light in early spring and fall. It will live in deeper shade too, and is remarkably tough, but the leaves will be more greenish, and flowering less profuse.
You can plant the Chocolate Chip Ajuga even in areas where deer and rabbits feed, as it is usually left alone by those critters. It isn’t usually bothered by pests or diseases, but too much drought may encourage mite damage. It is a good idea to trim off the flower stems for neatness, and you can do this with a lawn mower set on high, if you have a large area to tidy.
There are at least 40 different species of Ajuga recognized by botanists, and the usual one found in most gardens is Ajuga reptans. The Chocolate Chip Ajuga, though, is a selected form of another species, Ajuga tenorei (often misspelled as A. tenorii). That plant grows wild in Italy and the islands of Sicily and Malta, and is a smaller, more compact plant that Ajuga reptans. It was introduced to nurseries early this century by a young Italian nurseryman called Lorenzo Crescini. He worked in the USA and returned to Italy to grow and promote modern perennial gardening, at his nursery, Vivaio Valfredda, in the Northern Lakes region. He selected an especially attractive form of that native Ajuga, and named it ‘Valfredda’. It is also possible the plant is a hybrid between Ajuga tenorei and plants of Ajuga reptans that were growing in the nursery. When it was introduced into America around 2005, it was given the name Chocolate Chip, which has stuck here as a common name, but is in fact not its botanical name.
Areas of Bronze Beauty Ajuga are among the most beautiful semi-natural ground covers you can find, in bloom and out. Easy and reliable, and great in cold zones, it’s always in high demand, so measure up and order your requirements now, while we still have stock available to ship out to you.