The case of the disappearing…

…Purple Ajuga

OK — who can tell me how a whole flat of purple ajuga can just disappear?

I planted said flat last fall — all 48 or so little plantlets — spread in the shade garden and under the holly trees out back. Seemed like an endless task.

This spring…gonzo.

I know I’ve fallen victim to empty plant-tag promises before, but ajuga is universally known as a hardy, can’t-hurt-me, full-sun-to-full-shade groundcover.

So where did it go?

Groundhogs? Rabbits? Squirrels?

Please bring it back. No questions asked.

…”Hardy” Mums

Every fall, I dutifully plant the mums I’ve purchased and enjoyed for a couple weeks. I plant them well before they stop blooming. Well before frost.

Every spring, nada. Nothing. Nary a sprout.

Maybe I don’t fully understand the meaning of the word “hardy.”

…Coral Bells

Former “Plant of the Year” my foot. I can’t keep coral bells (heuchera) alive to save my life. Every year…limping along (if alive at all), whether purple, green, or fancy yellow-orange. Whether sun or shade or some of each (I keep moving them in desperation). “Reliable perennial” indeed.


I was fortunate last fall to find a flat of ‘Big Blue’ liriope on the clearance table at Lowe’s garden center at a ridiculously low price — and it wasn’t dead, or even half dead. Nursery sites describe it as “very easy to grow and tough as nails.” Great! I planted the 15 or so plants under the magnolia out front, and they hung in all winter. Then, last week, I noticed the foliage had died back and they weren’t looking so good. No wonder. Seems something had pulled them right out of the ground. I stuck a few back in (still in my sick state, I didn’t have much energy), and vowed to come back for a closer look. But I forgot this past weekend and I’m not confident the 87-degree temps didn’t do them in. Really — what the hell? (I also found a small astilbe out back that something had pulled out of the ground. What the hell?)

Apparently it’s not enough that I must constantly battle the black death emanating from my thumb. Other-worldly forces seem to be conspiring against me as well.

The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature
are the terms used in fairy books: charm, spell, enchantment.
They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.
~ G. K. Chesterton


  1. robbie said,

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I think the nature of gardening is that some plants survive and others don’t. Too many variables like winter lows, soil type, pH, sun/shade, wet/dry, pests/deer, health of plant when planted, etc. Used to bother us but now it’s just a crap shoot. I like to get out in the spring to see what survived and count it as a blessing. Those “hardy” plants are indeed hardy, but not always in PA. If you watch delivery trucks at Loews, Home Depot, etc., most are from North Carolina…..not exactly good for PA!!!!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    It’s just the guilt — “real” gardeners have their soil tested and amend it every year to the perfect pH and consistency. They compost and dig and mulch and prune and move and are constantly working at it. I feel like I work hard, but clearly at all the wrong things!

  3. Cynthia said,

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Ajuga did just fine for me at three different locations over a 20 year period in York County, PA. I never had any luck with Coral Bells either, died no matter what I did. I love ajuga. Occasionally you will have the mother plant get a fungus or something and rot out on you but the young hang in there. They do seem to like a bit of a slope and don’t like being on low ground where they sit in water. I cannot figure out what is pulling up your plants. Could it be that something is eating the roots, bulbs and they are toppling over? Moles, perhaps?

  4. WritingbyEar said,

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Cynthia. I was fortunate that my friend gave us a lot of flourishing ajuga out of her own garden so I spread that in many places. Still don’t know why the flat I planted didn’t make it. I ended up moving the liriope that were getting pulled out — I wondered if it was birds or squirrels or something. No problems with that in the new site. We do have moles (I saw one feeding under the birdfeeder just the other day, so that is a good possibility too!) (BTW, I’ve replanted the coral bells in yet another location — I’m not getting my hopes up…)

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