Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Frosted Jade ajuga

ajuga-incisa-bikun-640

 

Can a plant be too interesting?  Testing the limits here.  This is the ajuga that rebels against everything you thought ajuga lived for.  It clumps instead of spreads.  Its leaves are toothy and broad, not smooth and long.  It grows as high as wide, not like an ever-spreading pancake.  And it has flowers three times as long, and they're in loose and short spikes that display individual flowers well.

 

In short, it's the plant that defies you to call it ajuga.  I like plants that call my bluff (let alone the bluff of my garden friends and visitors).  Gardening would get too-calm, indeed, if all the plants were easy to recognize, performed as expected, and lived forever.

 

'Bikun' was news to me when I saw it at a specialty nursery last Summer, and this is its first blooming, too.  With foliage this singular, though, the flowers are almost too generous a gift.  Wouldn't you expect to have to forgive the flowers, or even remove them—like you would for most hostas?

 

But here they are, as striking as the foliage.  Some plants have all the luck.

 

ajuga-incisa-bikun-hand-640

 

One supplier says the plant will get a foot tall.  I'm waiting.

 

 

Here's how to grow this singular shade-garden starlet:

 

Latin Name

Ajuga incisa 'Bikun'

Common Name

"Frosted Jade" ajuga

Family

Lamiaceae, the mint family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 8

Habit

Clumping with erect stems and and dense foliage; does not spread like typical ajuga. 

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

A clump to a foot high and wide.

Texture

Thick and dense enough for a groundcover.  The tooth-edged leaves look like those of nettles instead of ajuga, whose leaves are smooth-edged and oval.

Grown for

the foliage!  In Spring the palest-jade leaves are bordered with cream.  'Bikun' has foliage that's as bright as that of any hosta.

 

the spikes of saturated indigo flowers are quite a surprise compared to the light-toned vividness of the foliage.  The flowers are much longer than those of typical ajuga too. 

Flowering season

Mid-Spring; mid-May here in Rhode Island.

Culture

A plant for a featured spot in the shade garden.  Good soil, plenty of water, and enough shade to keep the foliage from scorching.

How to handle it

'Bikun' is still so unusual that if you don't plant it right at the front edge of a bed, both you and your gardening friends will need to tromp right into the bed to get a close look.  The pale toothy foliage and large deep-blue flowers guarantee a "What is it?" inspection. 

 

Plants are foliaged right to the ground, so (as you can see from my pictures) can get splashed with mud in a heavy rain.  Mulching will keep the foliage much cleaner. 

 

With the foliage's show so distinctive, keeping it in good condition is a priority.  Rich well-drained soil, plenty of water, and dappled sun or afternoon shade would be the safest combination.

Downsides

Needs careful siting to keep the foliage in good shape.  Probably a feast for slugs and snails, although this hasn't been a problem in my otherwise snail-happy garden. 

Variants

None.

Availability

On-line and in local retailers

Propagation

Division in early Spring.

Native habitat

Japan

 
 
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