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Use Heathers For Carpets Of Colour in Your Garden

Aug 17, 2007
Robust heathers make excellent low-maintenance beds in open sunny positions.

There are varieties to provide year round colour and most have attractive foliage, which often changes colour according to the season.

If you have space, heathers look best planted in bold drifts. Depending on the size of the bed, plant them in groups of perhaps ten or twenty of each variety. If you make your selection with care, you can have some in flower virtually every season of the year. They can also be used in combination with conifers to create striking effects.

Limited Maintenance
The only attention heathers need is an annual trim in mid-spring; cut out old flower heads as well as any dead, diseased or damaged shoots. Apply a slow-release fertilizer after pruning.
Heathers can become woody with time and may require replacing after some years.

Planting Heathers
Make sure you choose the correct type of heathers for your soil. Winter flowering Erica carnea varieties, which are more correctly known as heaths, will grow on neutral or even slightly alkaline soil. True heathers, such as Erica cinerea and Calluna vulgaris varieties, need an acid soil.

When planting, it is important to prepare the soil thoroughly, and adding peat to the planting area will benefit all types. Plant through a sheet of black plastic or a plastic mulching sheet to keep weeding down to the absolute minimum. Then you can mulch on top of the sheet with a more attractive material such as chipped bark or gravel.

1)Prepare the soil thoroughly before planting. Add plenty of organic material such as a compost or well-rotted manure, especially if the soil is dry or impoverished of nutrients. If planting in spring or summer, rake in a balanced general fertilizer. If planting in autumn or winter, wait until spring to apply fertilizer to avoid scorching tender roots.

2)Start planting at one end or at the back of the bed. Space the plants about 30-45cms (12-18 inches) apart. The planting distance will vary according to the species and even variety, so check first. Plant with a trowel and press the soil down firmly with your hands to exclude any air pockets.

3)Use a mulch of peat or composted chipped bark to suppress weeds, conserve moisture and improve the appearance of the soil while the plants are still young. Over time this will rot down and provide nutrients for the growing plants and may need topping up every few years.
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