There are many reasons why you should consider planting heathers in your garden. Here are just a few of them.
Heathers are workhorse plants that add much interest to the garden. Many varieties change their foliage to very bright colours during the winter while others have beautiful spring tips in the spring. Add to that the fact that with careful planning one can have a collection of heather plants that will flower for you 12 months of the year. Finally, with so many different foliage colours, the palette available to you is extensive. The foliage colours can include mid green, dark green, grey green, yellow, silver grey, orange gold, bronze green and many shades in between.
Heathers provide great ground cover and will nicely cover a slope or other area in your garden within three to five years. This will keep the weeds down and, other than pruning for some species, require very little maintenance. Just keep them tidy and well mulched and they will be very happy.
Heathers attract bees. Have you ever watched the bees working the heathers on a nice sunny day in February? It is a wonderful sight. I also believe that my winter flowering heathers help to feed the hummingbirds during the winter. So, if you want to attract bees, birds and butterflies to your garden, think about planting heathers.
Heathers are relatively deer resistant. When they are first planted, the deer can pull them out as they are very curious animals. However, with careful checking just after you have planted your heather, you can tuck them back in first thing in the next morning and they will never know the difference. Yes, deer can nibble heather but it is rare for them to destroy a plant. Once they are established they are relatively resistant to deer.
Heathers make great companion plants. It is never a good idea to have a monoculture in one’s garden. Heather goes very well with a wide variety of plants which will add even more interest to your garden. Plants such as rhodendron, styrax japonicas, pieris japonica, daphne, hellebores and a variety of grasses are some that you may wish to consider.
Last, but not least, heathers really love a slightly acidic soil which is what we are blessed with in this area. The plants mentioned in the last paragraph also enjoy a slightly acidic soil which means that you are well on the way to “right plant; right place”.
To give you a start with establishing healthy heathers in your garden, plan to attend the Vancouver Island Heather Society’s spring sale which will take place on Saturday, March 25 at the Cobble Hill Farmer’s Institute Hall. The sale will begin at 10 a.m. and last until noon or until sold out. Experienced buyers will advise you that it is essential to get to the hall prior to the sale starting to get the best selection. We always have unusual varieties on hand. In addition, starter kits consisting of 10 plants and a planting diagram will be available.
Members of the Vancouver Island Heather Society will be on hand to help you make your choices. As well, members of the Victoria Master Gardener Association will be there to answer your general gardening questions.
Elaine Scott is a member of the Vancouver Island Heather Society