Whether it is heather…?

This last bout of rain has been incredibly welcome. Gardens have perked up, and everything is looking lush and green. Even with fall's low light and cooler temperatures, Squamish gardens are still going strong.

I met with a client the other day who is busy working on a long-term landscape plan for her residence. One of the areas she is interested in planting is a flat strip of grass that sits above her house adjacent to the road. A lot of us have these patches of unused space along our driveways or in front of our homes.

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We were looking for tough, hardy plants that, once established, provide year-round interest and eventually are drought tolerant. Heathers immediately came to mind and fall is a perfect time to plant them here in Squamish.

Heathers are a perennial favourite on the West Coast because they are low maintenance, evergreen, look good in containers, and once established, can take low water conditions. The thing I love about heathers is if you plan correctly, you can have blooms all year long on a plant that doesn't die down and, when not in bloom, has neat and tidy foliage.

All you need is excellent drainage and sunshine for heather to thrive.

The big question is, are these plants Heath, Heather or Erica's? Heather seems to have become the generic name that people use to refer to three types of plants. There are three categories of "heather": Calluna (Scotch Heather), Daboecia (Irish Heath), and Erica (Heath and Winter Heath).

Whatever you choose to call them, they are fantastic plants. The three types of heather all have different bloom times and attributes which are useful when you want to distinguish between them.

Erica/Heath has the most delicate texture of all the heathers and if you bend down to touch them, they feel soft to the touch. This variety has summer and winter blooming types. Erica darleyensis or Erica carnea will bloom from November to May if you select varieties for continuous bloom. If you are looking for summer blooms and interesting coloured foliage, check out Erica cinerea for a bright splash of colour.

Daboecia has beautiful bell-shaped flowers that bloom through spring and fall. The best part of this variety is that it is tolerant of part shade unlike some other heathers. Daboecia has a dark green colour and grows in a very neat and tidy shape. You will have no trouble finding a place in your garden for this beautiful plant.

Calluna and Scotch Heather start to bloom in late summer and carry on into fall. These are probably the most popular of all the varieties and are easily available and an excellent addition to the garden.

There are a huge number of Calluna from which to choose. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can find plants that grow into massive clumps, ones that make low groundcover and tiny little mounding ones. Folliage colour is amazing in this group and you can find a wide array of hues from silvery mounds, to red, to gold, and every shade of green and bronze.

Heathers are a true workhorse in the garden. Once you begin to love heathers you can easily devote an entire area of the garden to them. By mixing varieties and bloom time, you can create a living tapestry.

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief

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