Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer and Winter Heathers In the Garden

I have been a big fan of heathers and heaths for a number of years. Heathers are easy maintenance once they are established and always look wonderful as long as you give them a trim after they bloom. They provide great colors all year long, from greens to reds to golds in branches and beautiful blooms in a variety of colors. Heaths and heathers are especially wonderful when used in winter. They are a great way to add color and interest during the winter months and you have a huge variety to choose from.

In Petaluma I grew a few heathers in our backyard in raised beds. One grew to at least two or more feet wide. Another was happy in a partially shaded area, it was a winter blooming heather. Heaths and heathers like acid soil but they also do fine in regular soil from my experience. Even though they are boggy type plants as you may have seen in pictures from Scotland, they love the sun and require a good six hours of full sun to grow the best they can be.

When we moved to Eureka I brought the one heather I had left in a pot and brought it to plant at the new house. After a year and a half it has grown nicely to a much bigger size now that it is in the ground out in the front yard. Currently its sporting some pink blooms and is about eight to ten inches wide and a good five or six inches tall. Early on when we moved here I bought two spring heathers at the local nursery. A year and a half later they are getting quite big in the back yard flowerbed and leaves are coloring in deep green and deep reds. One of them, Spring Torch, is especially pretty in the spring with its cream and red colored buds displayed on the tips of the green branches.

Last October we went to a heath and heather farm located in Bayside near Eureka. Wow, that was an amazing trip! Every size and shape of heath and heathers you could think of set up in a green pasture behind the ranch with a gorgeous view of the hills nearby. Hot drinks and snack food were available under an old twisted apple tree, with a few tables and chairs so you could sit and relax enjoying the view. It really was a seasonal fall experience. The heather sale was great and for two or three dollars each I was able to buy a dozen different heathers for the front yard. Considering the price of heathers generally runs five to seven dollars for a four inch pot it was a great deal. The heathers are doing well so far and growing slowly. It seems to take a good year for them to start growing bigger, at least that has been my experience. You want to keep them well watered in good draining soil for the first year then they are drought tolerant. I give them a weekly watering even after the first year.

I have a mix of summer and winter heathers in the front yard. The summer heathers are a gold and green branch colors while there is a mix of pinks and purples for the winter heathers that are just starting to bud.

I can't wait for the next heath and heather sale in October. I'll find room to fit in more of my favorite plants somewhere in the yard.

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