Try adding a little heather

Heather will give you months of beautiful flowers or foliage despite the oncoming colder weather.

These heathers were grown by horticulturist David Wilson of Chilliwack.

These heathers were grown by horticulturist David Wilson of Chilliwack.

Well, it’s that time of year, when the planters by the front door or around the patio are looking a bit tired – those petunias, geraniums and lobelia have almost ‘given up the ghost’ and there’s more mildew than flowers.

It might be that you have a few permanent features such as heuchera, ivies or evergreen grasses that will live for another day, but what do you do with those gaping holes once the summer flowers are discarded?

Look no further than heather, which, providing you don’t over-water them (which is sure death), will give you months of beautiful flowers or foliage despite the oncoming colder weather.

There are basically three good choices available at most garden centres, including Scotch heathers (Calluna vulgaris) that come in a ‘bud bloomer’ form or have vibrant winter foliage after flowering.

The other two include the winter heathers, with both Erica carnea and Erica x darleyensis providing months of cold-season blooms in colours ranging from white, shell pink, rose and deep magenta.

For the collectors among you, there are even a few tender upright heathers, such as Erica arborea ‘Golden Joy,’ with its eye-scorching yellow foliage and the even rarer Erica x ‘African Fanfare,’ with its showy tips of elongated pink flower clusters. Both of these make excellent centrepieces until late autumn, when they will need to be sheltered in a cool greenhouse or sunroom for winter.

Some choice standard Scotch heathers to look for include ‘Firefly’ and ‘Hoyerhagen’, both of which are still in bloom, but also have deep gold foliage that shifts to a vivid reddish-orange in the colder weather.

The others to look for are the ‘bud bloomers’, a class of Scotch heather whose flower buds do not open and as a result the colour often lasts from now to Christmas, and even beyond. These are available in mixed pots where reds, pinks, whites, purples and gold foliage are blended to provide some contrast and much needed autumn focus.

Single cultivars (such as ‘Athene’, ‘Lianne’, ‘Alicia’ and ‘Selly’) are also available for those of you who like to fine tune your colour combinations.

The winter-flowering heathers come in the generally lower growing Erica carnea or the hybrid group Erica x darleyensis, which is a cross of E. carnea and Erica erigena.

The best of the former species includes ‘Springwood White’ and ‘Pink’, ‘Tanja’ (deep rose), ‘Wintersonne’ (vivid lilac-pink), ‘December Red’, ‘Golden Starlet’ (white with gold foliage), ‘Isabell’ (white) and ‘Myretoun Ruby’ (crimson-purple).

By far the most popular winter heather is Erica x darleyensis ‘Kramer’s Red’ (or ‘Kramer’s Rote’), with its deep magenta flowers that never seem to fade.

Other worthy x darleyensis hybrids include ‘White Perfection’, ‘Jenny Porter’ (lilac with cream spring tips), ‘Furzey’ (lilac-pink) and ‘Jack H. Brummage’ (gold foliage).

Lastly, I would like to take a little time to recognize one of our premier heather growers, David Wilson of Chilliwack. All of the heathers pictured with today’s article were lovingly grown by him, with many cultivars, such as the ‘Golden Joy’ tree heather (which he discovered), and the ‘African Fanfare’ being just a handful of rarities that he has introduced locally.

The praise for this beautiful stock should go solely to the hard work of a few dedicated horticulturists, such as David.

When I see my last delivery of near perfect bud bloomers, I know I am looking at decades of growing experience, and before he retires I just wanted to thank him for it.


Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager

and gardening author


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows Art Gallery. (The News/files)
Calling all photographers for Pitt Meadows juried exhibition

Show will run Feb. 6 to Mar. 28 at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

RCMP are reopening the community police office in Pitt Meadows effective Dec. 1. (The News files)
Pitt Meadows community police office reopens

City awaiting decisions about separate RCMP detachment

RE/MAX LifeStyles Realty donated $3,500 to the Christmas Hamper Society. (Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society/Special to The News)
Christmas hamper deadline extended for residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Anyone needing help needs to get in touch with the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society

Jacob Mattson was delighted once he completed 250 laps of the Maple Ridge Secondary School’s track. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge man runs mega-marathon for Movember

Jacob Mattson, 25, only started running frequently nine months ago

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A convoy of seven pickup trucks, six of which were hauling boats, makes its way around the Chilliwack Law Courts on Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
First court date for Fraser River anglers ticketed during demonstration fishery

Convoy of trucks circled the courthouse in downtown Chilliwack Tuesday honking their support

Most Read