Heather is one of my all-time favorite plants for adding texture and color to the garden year ’round. And it has a bonus–it attracts bees and butterflies, providing a safe haven for them to snuggle down close in the foliage.
I gave several garden tours this summer of my own garden where I have added more evergreen heather and it was a big favorite with everyone. It is unique and beautiful.
I first became enthralled with the thought of heath and heather while reading romance novels, such as Jane Eyre, as a teen. Of course the hero and heroine ride through the misty heathers covering the moors of Scotland. And then I went to Scotland and saw it in person. I just had to have some! That was the same summer I went on tour at a heather grower and knew I was in love.
Heather Is Versatile
As beautiful, evergreen plants they come in many shapes, sizes and colors. From low-growing broad spreaders to compact shrubs to upright large spreaders, you’ll find one for virtually every location in your garden. I love the foliage that changes color depending upon the season such as the Calluna variety called ‘Dark Beauty’. Dark green foliage with a blood red flower, blooming August to October. Or ‘Red Haze’ which has a lavender flower on dull gold foliage in September, turning reddish bronze in winter. Or the Erica variety of ‘Rosalie’ with a bright pink flower blooming January to April and bronze green foliage. The options are endless. Are you enthralled like I am?!
Which Varieties are Best?
Remember that we are located in USDA Zone 4, 5 & 6, which offers a huge temperature range of cold winters and hot summers. If you live outside a pine-forested area your soils are more likely to be alkaline while within the pine forest the soil is acid. This sounds challenging and yet it gives us a wonderful opportunity to choose from a greater variety of plants. For alkaline soils you have a huge variety of heaths in the genus called ‘Erica‘. While acid soils are best for genus called ‘Calluna’, commonly known as heather.
Heather is Water-Wise
Once established, heaths and heathers are extremely hardy and drought-tolerant. I recommend my soil recipe for all your gardens of course–(email me if you haven’t received The Soil Recipe e-book) with the addition of a little more mulch in the area surrounding the plant. And if you want to make the soil a little more acidic, add mushroom compost or coffee grounds.
Remember the saying, “$10 hole, $2 plant.
To get them established in our tough climate be sure not to let them dry out. I planted mine this year just before the heat of the summer and I water them every single day. As the temperatures cool I’ll check to make sure the soil is dry before I water. More plants die from overwatering than under watering.
I love heather plants en masse and grouped in a variety of colors, foliage color combined with flower color and winter bloom combined with summer bloom. Because our summer sun is so intense, the plants with the more yellow foliage need some afternoon shade, so they go in a more protected area. I’ll create a micro-climate by using trees or taller shrubs that can provide some protection. I love the look of heather too with ornamental grasses. It gives the landscape that moorish appeal making it very dramatic.
I used the heather in my own garden lawn replacement because I wanted everything to be evergreen. They look fabulous with the creeping thyme and ice plant ground covers, adding unique textures.
I hope I’ve convinced you that you just have to have some heather in your organic garden. These fabulous plants have all my requirements–year ’round color and texture, water-wise and attractive to a large variety of pollinators.
In sync with nature,