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Heather bed design

Posted by thane z8 Bellevue, WA (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 27, 06 at 2:24

Hello, everyone. I'm currently wrestling with the design of the heath/heather bed I'm putting in front of my house. I wrote up a summary of the plan to run by a few friends (thus the explanations of things I'm sure you all know). I thought I'd post it here as well to see if anyone had any opinions.

Heather Bed Design

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Heather bed design

I think your selection and layout is generally quite nice. I might opt for only a single planting (rather than 2) of the orange-toned, simply because that color - if in full sun here - is so intense. Remember that these will offer chartreuse foliage for the bulk of the season, only turning the brick or orange color for winter.

As to including other forms, you are not really limited, except by space :-) You might think about some that offer early season interest with colorful new growth, like Calluna 'Spring Torch', 'Spring Cream' or 'Easter Bonfire' or those that feature bright gold foliage, like Erica 'Mary Helen' or 'Bell's Extra Special'.

Right now, it's hard to limit yourself, as we are just entering a prime heather season and the nurseries are full of the most gorgeous plants :-)

RE: Heather bed design

  • Posted by thane z8 Bellevue, WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Sep 28, 06 at 15:41

Gardengal, thank you as always for the thoughtful reply.

I read somewhere that some people use woolly thyme as a ground cover to complement their heathers. Has anyone tried this or seen it? It seems like it has some potential.

RE: Heather bed design

I photo googled 'Mary Helen' and 'Bells Extra Special' and of course all the photo's focus on the bloom not the plant ahhhhhhhh. Would you consider the winter color of these similar and what conifer color would you companion them with?
thane, great idea about the thyme my only warning might be that living in a sandy humid region the few successful woolly thyme plants I have seen are those that have been grown in EXTREMLY sandy soil. I love your plan it looks wonderful don't forget to offer extra winter protection from sun and wind to your young plants. kt

RE: Heather bed design

No winter protection from sun needed in Bellevue WA ;)

RE: Heather bed design

Thane...what did you end up doing? Do you have a photo to share?

I'm new to heaths/heathers and am frustrated at trying to come up with a plan.

RE: Heather bed design

  • Posted by thane z8 Bellevue, WA (My Page) on
    Sun, May 9, 10 at 16:58

I used the design more or less as it was shown in my document. The heathers are filling in nicely.

For my silvery heather I used 'Silver Knight' instead of 'Silver Queen', and it has been overall the best-performing heather I have. It has filled in quickly and blooms well every year, and I love the silvery foliage. It goes quite well with the pink flowers, and it takes a purplish hue in the winter.

A few lessons I have learned:

1. Dark flowers are not eye-catching. I love heathers with very dark flowers, like 'Larissa' and Erica cinerea 'Velvet Night'. However, I have found that the flowers are almost completely lost when viewed from a distance. I am keeping a small patch of the 'Velvet Night' that I added, but 'Larissa' is going to be replaced.

2. Pay attention to the stated future height and width of the plants. (The online catalog at is a wonderful source of information - and plants.) I have found that I need taller heathers for most of my bed, with some shorter ones in front.

3. Don't forget the 'average' heathers. I like the heathers with orange, red, and silver foliage, and unusual flowers, but I have noticed that you still need to have some heathers with medium green and the more usual flower types in order to set off the striking foliage of your other heathers.

4. Don't neglect the spring tips. Some of my favorite heathers are the ones with striking new growth in the spring. 'Kerstin' has wonderful cream-colored new growth, and looks very nice the rest of the year. It's one of my favorites now. 'Spring Torch' is a wonderful fiery red. These heathers later fade into a more normal appearance, and can fill the role of the 'average-looking' heathers from #3 above.

5. I think it's worth the money to buy large plants. These plants take a while to get established and fill in. Many of mine still look kind of small after two years. The 'Silver Knight's I bought were 1-gallon, and they have done the best.

6. Experiment. By all means, come up with a plan before you start - but know that you can move them around within the first two years, and also that some of the varieties that you are most excited about will be disappointing, and others will surprise you with their wonderful performance. I filled in some of the extra spaces with single plants of a few different varieties, and later decided to expand those selections to become major parts of the planting. ('Kerstin' being one of the major examples.)

Hope that was helpful! I'd post a photo, but I just trimmed them all back for spring, so they look their worst right now. Maybe in August when they are all blooming.

RE: Heather bed design

Kerstin is a great heather. One of my favorites. I like the dark colors too and my bed is small enough that I see them up close. I have E.c. Velvet Night and also C.v. Dark Star and Dark Beauty.

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