Downeast Dog News

My War on Ajuga

and… Predicting the Future
By | Sep 01, 2019
Photo by: A portion of the ajuga removed from the gardens, lawn and woods, being dried to oblivion in the sun.

I thought it was a lovely little plant 10 years ago. It had stowed-away with a few perennials a friend gave me which I was eager to plant in my new garden. My knowledge of gardening and plants wasn’t, and still isn’t, very extensive, but based on looks alone, this innocent little plant was quite welcome to stay. It had a few little friends with it, I noticed, but what the heck, the more the merrier!

Within a few years, the sweet little plant had easily managed to cover the area between my perennials, and it was really pretty. Its dark green/purplish leaves created a thick ground cover, filled empty spaces beautifully and there were lovely purple flowers that shot up above. Sure, there were a few sneaking out into our lawn on all sides of the garden, but how bad could it get? They just got mowed over anyway, and we aren’t fussy about what our lawn looks like.

“…do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the sweet music it plays in the landscape!” []

Over the years, the plant established a robust multi-generational family that loved to travel, stretching out tendrils and sending down sturdy roots as fast as a Labrador Retriever can inhale her meal. It wasn’t such an issue in the garden, but the lawn was definitely starting to get transformed. In a bad way.

Last year: I finally realized that I had to do something about this now obviously invasive plant, but I made yet another fatal error: I thought it deserved a second chance. I moved it from one garden to another. This second garden bordered on woods, so I figured it would be okay if it traveled that way, and it was pretty far from the lawn.

This year: I finally came to the realization that this formerly-innocent plant had an ulterior motive: to take over the world. Yes, it had liked moving into the woods, but the speed with which it not only did that but also invaded the entire garden and the adjoining lawn was awe-inspiring. Of course, it never really left the first garden, either.

I decided that it had to go. Every bit of it.

Ajuga is a formidable opponent.

Not wanting to use harsh chemicals that could harm desirable plants or poison the earth, I set out to get rid of the stuff forever, by hand, no matter how long it would take me. I tackled each individual plant, trying to dig up every bit of every one I came across. There were thousands of them.

I had let the stuff proliferate for so long that it’s going to be a lifelong pursuit to maintain control over it. No matter how many I remove, there are inevitably some that I missed and they will eventually become problematic.

“Life is like a piece of crumpled paper and every crease on that paper is a habit.” [Diana Logan]

No matter how hard you try to break a habit, to smooth that crease and return it to its original state, a shadow of that habit will still remain. It’s best to avoid creases we don’t want reemerging at some later date.

The lesson I learned is that I should have consulted a knowledgeable person for advice. Had I done so, I would have saved myself years of work… and it would have resulted in a nicer garden, too. A professional would have been able to see the future, warn me against falling for the charm of this delightful plant and suggest alternatives. Sure, it’s a fine plant for some, in some situations, but you have to know what you are doing.

How does this pertain to dog training? Lots! As a professional dog trainer, I often see what are considered cute little behaviors being rewarded in some way; behaviors that are sure to grow into weeds that will be very difficult to extricate. What “seeds” might you be planting with your dog? Are they seeds for behaviors that will be useful in the future or might they fall into the not-so-desirable once they are well-established?

Behavior is a garden. Nourish those you want to thrive.