MARY’S ADVICE ON GROWING HEATHERS
▯ Soil and mulching: For summer-flowering heathers to thrive, they need to grow on ericaceous, or acidic, soil, which can be created by adding ericaceous compost. They also respond well to liberal doses of leaf mould mixed in with the compost. At Champs Hill, this is added to the beds from March or April. Each bed is mulched thoroughly every two to three years. Heathers do not require other types of feeding. ▯ Conditions: Heathers love sunshine, but not too much wind or overwatering. They vastly prefer rainwater above chlorinated tap water. ▯ Pruning: It is vital to keep heathers in good condition and clumped snugly close to the ground. Once flowering is over, the greenery beneath the flower stems should be pruned. If heathers are left, they will grow woody and leggy, and the tapestry effect will become more difficult to maintain. If they get too leggy, they can either be replaced or pulled out. A deeper hole is dug, lined with ericaceous compost. If the heathers are replanted halfway up their growth, they will come again. Late autumn is the ideal time to prune summer-flowering heathers, and March for the winter heathers. ▯ Scent: Heathers are not scented, but on hot, dry days they give out a pungent smell of dry earth and sunbaked foliage. ▯ Planting quantities: To make a visual impact, heathers are planted in odd numbers: five, seven or more of the same variety at a time. At Champs Hill, Mary sometimes plants 15 together for a bigger show. Gradually, they will fill out and weave into each other. ▯ Replanting: Heathers will not last forever and at some stage will need replacing and replanting; this is part of their life cycle.
For more information and to source particular plants, go to heathersociety.org