From the Desk of Ed Hume: Colorful Summer and Fall Heather

August 21, 2011 at 11:30 PM Leave a comment

One of my favorite summer and autumn flowering shrubs are heather.  Covered with seasonal flowers, these evergreen shrubs provide a bright colorful spot in the garden at this time of year.  Heathers are easy to grow, take very little care, are evergreen, and while most flower for several weeks some flower up to a couple of months or more.

About the only care heather needs is pruning, and that is done after the plants have flowered.  In the case of the late summer and autumn flowering varieties, it is done in early spring before the new growth begins.  Pruning is simple; all one has to do is give the plants a light shearing and shaping.  The key is to simply remove the old spent flowers.  This type of shearing (pruning) encourages new multiple growth, making the plant bushier and encouraging even more flowers in subsequent years.

There are numerous varieties of heather, so one really should see them in bloom before choosing varieties for your own garden.  In addition, you might want to pay particular attention to foliage color, because you see the foliage all twelve months of the year.  Some varieties have wonderful golden foliage, others are gray, many are in various shades of green, and some have colorful brilliant new foliage growth.

I hesitate to mention varieties because there are so many really outstanding ones, and many nurseries feature a limited number of them.  However, here are a few of my favorites:

H. E. Beale: Four-to-six inch stems of double shell pink blossoms.  It blooms from August to October.

Beoley Gold: Bright gold foliage with attractive white flowers.  Does best in sun-part shade.  Blooms August and September.

Velvet Fascination: Noted for its blue gray foliage and white flowers.  It blooms in August and September.

Chase White: White flowers and bright green foliage.  It flowers in August and September.

Birch Glow: Dark green foliage and bright rose pink flowers.  It flowers from mid-August to early November most years.

Heathers are usually grown in 4” pots, gallon, or two-gallon containers.  They often have a very prolific root system, and if that is the case with your plant, the outer roots should be lightly combed so they will grow out of the original root ball after being planted.  Plant them so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.  They grow and flower best in a slightly acid soil.

If and when fertilizing is needed, use a rhodendron or evergreen type of plant food.  The best time to feed is in mid-February or mid-May.

Add a bright spot of color to your garden with the colorful late summer and autumn heathers.

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From the Desk of Ed Hume: Fall and Winter Vegetable Planting Guide Ed’s Podcasts: Fall Planting

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