We admire ‘Princess Nadia’ for taking so many interesting trends within Ajugas and wrapping them into a single, well-behaved package. Before, a cultivar would have an interesting trait like a variegated leaf, or lots of pink tinting, or big showy blooms, or maybe it formed an attractive groundcover. ‘Nadia’ does a nice job of blending all those traits into a very garden-worthy plant.
However, ‘Princess Nadia’ doesn't do it all. Ajugas are really a collection with four major traits that you can push from minimum to maximum settings. Other interesting cultivars still have their place because they provide what ‘Nadia’ doesn’t, like wide leaves or bronzing.
At their heart, the Ajugas are hardy and durable plants. We’ve seen them compete successfully with lawn grass, settle underneath deeply shaded trees, and sit out in blazing hot landscapes, heavily mulched. They just don’t complain. However, to make an interesting Ajuga, breeders bend and stretch four key traits in their efforts to create a standout variety.
Ajugas ‘Chocolate Chip’ and ‘Princess Nadia’
Among the groundcovers, texture is an important part of the retail appeal. Ajugas fall into one of two leaf types: many have narrow leaves shaped like a lance, and fewer have thick leaves shaped like a spade. Use the thin leaf versions if you want a groundcover in the landscape or a mounded mat inside pottery.
Ajugas ‘Black Scallop’, ‘Burgundy Glow’, and ‘Pink Lightning’
Thick leaf versions are more often used as stand-alone specimens in landscaping or pottery containers. The crown creates a more visible rosette of leaves where the flower spike emerges.
Left = Dappled Variegation (‘Chocolate Chip’)
Center = Classic Variegation (‘Pink Lightning’)
Right = No Variegation (‘Black Scallop’)
Variegation is a nuanced affair among the Ajugas. There is the classic cream-on-green as practiced by ‘Burgundy Glow’, ‘Pink Lightning’, and ‘Princess Nadia’. However, there is a second, more subtle version where different leaves have different tints, creating the dappled woodland look of ‘Chocolate Chip’ and—to a degree—‘Burgundy Glow’. Finally, some varieties choose to ignore variegation altogether, like ‘Black Scallop’.
Most Ajugas bloom with spikes of dark cobalt blue flowers. In the garden, flower stalks rise up from the thick mat of a low groundcover, but in a container the plant mounds up somewhat higher. Blooms usually reach about six inches in height.
Ajuga ‘Pink Lightning’
‘Pink Lightning’ is the exception. It has the same form and height as other Ajugas, but the bloom comes out a pale lavender-pink color instead. Like other cultivars the blooms are tightly packed around the central stem, giving the spire a stacked-tile effect.
Left = Pinks over a variegated base (‘Princess Nadia’)
Right = Bronze over a solid base (‘Chocolate Chip’)
Tinting is one of Ajuga’s signature features, and this genus comes equipped with two color ranges that sit over the basic green or green-and-white chassis.
THE PINK TINTS appear when the plant breaks dormancy, and the color is always strongest in the early spring. All pink-tinted cultivars eventually fade in color, so the questions are, “How long?” and “How strong?” or “Does it exist at all?” ‘Burgundy Glow’ is famous for its deep rose color when it emerges in early spring, whereas ‘Princess Nadia’ has a pink tint that fades very slowly, lasting nearly the entire season.
THE BRONZE TINTS are the polar opposite. Dark and chocolately by nature, this tint matures as the plant ages. The color also strengthens and darkens if the plant is grown in full sun, becoming nearly black in ‘Black Scallop’ and a Hershey brown in ‘Chocolate Chip’.