Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heaths and Heathers




Heaths and heathers - can you tell them apart? I'm not sure. I've pored over the descriptions and photos in my gardening books and on the net, and I'm still not sure what I've got on the balcony at the moment. They were sold as Erica - that is heath - though the variety wasn't specified. But Erica is supposed to have needle-like leaves, and mine are different - to me they look like the leaves of Calluna vulgaris - the Scottish heather or ling. Some species and varieties of Erica don't flower at this time of year, but others do - so that doesn't help.


Does it make much difference? Not really. Calluna is hardier than Erica, but that's not a problem on the balcony, where I can easily protect against the few really cold spells we have. We're in zone 8, and while it can drop well below freezing outside, the warmth from the house means the balcony is far less at risk. I'm more worried about summer heat, and as many species of Erica are limited to southern Europe and Africa, thought it might be a better bet. But no, Calluna vulgaris is supposed to like full sun and be heat tolerant - suitable for US heat zones 4-7. I'm not sure what our heat zone is, but I suspect it's somewhere in that range. Heat zones are based on the number of days per year the temperature rises above 30°C/86F, and for us that means any time mid-June to early September, with the middle six weeks rarely far below. I have to say though that it surprised me. I wouldn't have thought that a plant which chose to grow so abundantly on the Scottish moors would be a sun-lover.


But apart from hardiness, they both seem to like identical treatment : acid soil, no fertiliser, and constant moisture but good drainage. So from that point of view it doesn't really matter that I'm not sure what I've got.

In any case, they're my choice for this month's Gardeners' Bloom Day post. Yes, I know - late again. I didn't really have much choice this month. It's been a busy period for work and most of the stuff on the balcony is currently dead or dying - I kid myself it's due to the change of the season, but several plants have been looking at me accusingly and muttering under their leaves about neglect and cruelty. I'm sorry - I will get back out to you sooner or later, I promise ...

10 comments:

GardenJoy4Me said...

Sue .. they look gorgeous no matter which type they are. I tried for 3 years to keep, heather ? which I'm thinking was heath, because the name Erica seems to ring a bell .. in my garden but I have never been able to over winter it, or plead with it to survive till Spring. Some how I think you will have more success than I have had : )

Buddy Garden said...

Those look gorgeous Sue! I have cleaned out most of my deck except Fuschia and the purple leaf oxalis. They're still blooming.

Chandramouli S said...

I can tell them apart as I've never heard of them before, but they look cute and neat all the same. Hope you find their exact identity soon. Best luck

kompoStella said...

how very pretty :-) i really enjoy the different shades of... heather? i thought you might enjoy a crazy heather picture from scotland:

http://nmdfacosphoto.blogspot.com/2008/07/north-of-scotland.html

look at the last image and i'm pretty sure your jaw will drop. mine did!

jodi said...

How I tell people to tell them apart, Sue, is that Heath rhymes with Easter and that's when they generally flower (spring). Heaths also have leaves that look like needles on miniature conifers. Heathers, on the other hand, flower in later summer and into autumn and have scaly leaves. They both can come in awesome foliage shades that turn even more awesome colours come autumn and winter, at least here in our climate. For you in Italy, I'm not sure how the differences in culturing would be. But whatever the case, they're awesome, and very habitforming.

Jan and Steve said...

I'm confused now, as I've always thought that there was heather and ling and that heath was heather. I stand corrected, and it looks beautiful whatever it is!

Just to confuse everyone further though, yesterday I discovered quite a lot of purple heath growing in our woods. It's got leaves like tiny pine trees and is flowering now.

themanicgardener said...

It's beautiful, whatever it is. I think you should lock all your "experts" in a room (along with Stuart, and his "Who are these experts, anyway?" post, and whoever staggers out first a week later gets to decide what they are.
--Kate

tina said...

I wouldn't be able to tell them apart either. They are pretty but for some reason don't like my garden.

Defining Your Home said...

Very informative! Beautiful heather. Cameron

Carol said...

I'm always tempted by heaths and heathers, but they never do well in my garden. Thanks for sharing information about them for bloom day!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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