MARY’S ADVICE ON GROW­ING HEATHERS

Landscape (UK) - - Our Landscape -

▯ 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

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