GREAT BRITAIN: Heather is evergreen, hardy and colourful and has been nominated at the HTA’s Plant of the Month for February. With some varieties flowering from November through to May, they can provide an unexpected splash of colour in the garden during the cold winter months.
Heather is part of the Ericaceae family, and with over 4,000 varieties to choose from, there is a plant to suit every garden situation. As well as providing year round colour, they are an invaluable food source for wildlife throughout the year, with bees attracted to their nectar and smaller creatures taking refuge in the dense close foliage.
Fantastic for ground cover, Heathers need little maintenance so are ideal for the novice gardener. They are best planted in beds with plenty of drainage, not under trees, and in a sunny, south facing position. Conifers or small evergreen shrubs can be added to provide contrast in height and form. They also make great container plants, ideal in planters, window boxes and hanging baskets. Make sure the container is free draining and use an ericaceous compost.
Erica heathers are lime tolerant, so will therefore grow in most soil types, acid or alkaline. Varieties of Erica Carnea and Erica Darleyensis provide flower during the winter months, with white, pink, purple and red flowers available, as well as green, yellow, gold and terracotta foliage.
John Hall from John Hall Plants, Chair of the British Heather Growers Association says “Heathers are exceptionally versatile and there really is one to suit every garden.”
Celebrity champion, David Lindo, The Urban Birder is passionate about heather and getting urbanites to realise that there is a whole world of wildlife under their noses in the world’s cities. On site for his photo shoot at W6 Garden Centre, London he said: “Heather is also extremely important plant in Britain’s moorlands and heaths with 46 species of birds depending on it for feeding and breeding. My favourite bird, the Ring Ouzel – a type of thrush, is very associated with heather as is the gorgeous Dartford Warbler. They, like I, cannot live without heather.”