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New plants: Ajuga Feathered Friends® Series

The humble bugle has had quite a makeover with these stunning new American varieties, which bring us dramatic new leaf colours and exciting flower-foliage combinations

You may have come across the British native bugle, Ajuga reptans, by the side of the path on spring walks through damp woods – its blue flower spikes are unmistakeable. There are two or three dozen named varieties, many chosen for their colourful foliage, but when they were trialled at RHS Garden Wisley, none of them proved good enough to receive the Award of Garden Merit.
Now, a creative American plant breeder has developed a range of very promising new hybrids in a variety of foliage colours, including gold, chocolate brown, amber, bronze and coppery tones – eight varieties in all.

Ajuga Feathered Friends Cordial Canary
Ajuga Feathered Friends Fancy Finch
Focussing on foliage

Plant breeder Chris Hansen, founder of Garden Solutions in Michigan, has already had great success with his series of Sunsparkler™ sedums, with their neat growth and uniquely colourful leaves, and his large and vigorous ChickCharms™ Sempervivum, whose

rosettes come in an astonishing range of vivid colours and colour combinations. The Feathered Friends® series of Ajuga hybrids is his latest success.

Eight new bugles in a wide range of foliage colours

The first of the seven varieties in the Feathered Friends® series was created by crossing an unnamed golden-leaved variety of the British native bugle with ‘Chocolate Chip’, a dark-leaved variety of the rare Italian bugle, Ajuga tenorei. The Italian bugle has smaller, neater leaves than the British native bugle, so makes a more compact plant.
The name Feathered Friends® relates to the way the new plants’ smaller, narrower foliage knits together more tightly than older varieties, overlapping to create a low, dense mat that’s great for groundcover.

Ajuga Feathered Friends Fancy Finch
The first three varieties to become available in the UK are Cordial Canary (‘Corcan’) with small golden leaves, Fancy Finch (‘Fanfin’) with small leaves in a mixture of gold, orange and bronze, and Petite Parakeet (‘Petpar’) with golden foliage that develops orange tints as it matures. More Feathered Friends® varieties should be available later this year. All spread steadily and neatly, and all have colourful spikes of vivid blue spring flowers.

Where can I buy the Feathered Friends® bugles?

Cordial Canary, Fancy Finch and Petite Parakeet are available from Suttons, Thompson & Morgan, Van Meuwen and Dobies. Barnes Nuseries offer Cordial Canary and the dark-leaved Noble Nightingale (‘Nobnig’).

Ajuga Feathered Friends Noble Nightingale
Ajuga Feathered Friends Tropical Toucan

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