Heathers come into their own in winter, providing welcome colour through massed wands of tiny pink, white or red blooms or vibrantly-toned foliage. They’re hardy and durable and, coming from upland habitats, they're ideal for exposed, windy positions.
While some heathers, such as Calluna vulgaris, flower in summer, Erica carnea and E. darleyensis perform with aplomb in winter. The main consideration when choosing these shrublets is that they need acid soil, although some, such as E. darleyensis, will tolerate more lime, surviving in pH neutral soils. Or grow them in pots or hanging baskets of ericaceous compost.
They’re ideal for popping into gaps in massed potted plantings or just growing on their own. There are plenty of varieties on sale now. Besides acid soil, they also need moist, but well-drained conditions and won’t stand waterlogging.
Break up heavy soil and work in plenty of organic matter before planting. Habits of various varieties differ from prostrate spreading mats to more upright, stubby branched forms, so mixing them in clumps or drifts creates a tapestry of texture and form. Lightly shear off spent flowering shoots to encourage new growth to develop.