Heaths and Heathers
When gardeners mention heathers the thought immediately turns to Scotland, where in August to September they flower in abundance. These are the Calluna vulgarise, and although its only one species a great deal of variation exists.
Often heaths, which are related to heathers are lumped together with them, they are however a separate and more varied species, the Ericas. If you happen to be going to Scotland the best time for seeing the heathers is in August to September.
The difference between Heaths and Heathers.
The difference between heaths and heathers, besides the species, is that the Heathers (Calluna) are more cold hardy,and here in the USA they are capable of surviving to USDA zone 3, although 5 - 7 is a more comfortable range. The heaths (Erica species and cultivars) are best in warmer zones, generally USDA zones 7 - 9.
Another differance is that he foliage of heaths is a needle like form. Heathers are well known as natives of Scotland, they have a flat, scale-like foliage.
Hardy evergreen plants that add color to the garden year round, both Heaths and Heathers are a valuable addition to the garden.
They are generally a fairly tough and cold tolerant plants, they make great ground cover plants, and the foliage has fantastic colours.
- Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus, they are known as the Heathers. They have scale like foliage they flower mainly in summer, through to fall.
- Heaths are from the Erica genus with over 500 species. These have needle like foliage and flower from winter to summer depending on variety.
- Martha Herman,
- Roland Haagen
Pictured right we have Erica canaliculata (syn E.melanthera) a white flowering heath, also known as the 'Channelled Heath'. Erica cerinthoides also known as the 'Hairy Heath' is another spectacular species.
One of the easiest hybrids to grow is Erica x darlyensis, good white flowers in spring, perhaps not as fussy about soil types and its been around since the late 1800s.
- King George,
- Springwood Pink,
- C. D. Eason,
- Kramer's Red,
- W. T. Rackliff
- Erica cerinthoides
Generally Calluna varieties will flower from June to October, with Highland Rose and Red Pimpernel two of the earliest with Peter Sparkes and Iris Van Leyen being two of the latest.
Height is another factor in choice, The low growing J.F Letts reches only around 4 “ in height, the aptly names Pygmaea is even lower. Hammondii alba with white flowers will reach 24 “ as will Elsie Purnell with its crimson red flowers and Gold Haze,golden foliage with white flowers.
The so called ‘Tree Heaths’ ( Erica arborea and Erica lusitanica. ) can reach to 4ft, these are called Erica x ‘Veitchii, with its white flowers is one, ‘Australis’ with Rosey Red flowers will reach around 3 ft.
As these are a non invasive, drought tolerant, low maintenance , low fertilizer plant, uses in the garden are many.
Use them in mass planting in the broaer landscape. Grow them in the rock garden, or try them as fillers in the perennial border where the year round color is a welcome relief to seasonal perennials.
Heaths and Heathers are available for sale form the following Nurseries
DIGGING DOG NURSERY - phone (707) 937-1130
PO Box 471 Albion CA 95410