Winter Heath

White Winter Heather or Darley Heath


"A foot more light, a step more true,
Ne'er from the heath-flower dash'd the dew."

-Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832)

   

Erica x darleyensis is a hybrid of E. carnea & E. erigena originating as a seedling in a Derbeyshire nursery over a century ago. As a hybrid it is hardier than its hardy parents, & hardier than most Calluna vulgaris heathers as well.

The parent species do not bloom as early as the hybrid, which can bloom as long as from October to May. In a friend's sunny garden near Hood Canal, the blooms persist from no later than December & are still perfectly vibrant in March, with some less perfect blooms lingering into April.

The Winter Heaths & Winter Cyclamens are the closest things we have to "winter everblooming" flowers. Winter Heath will not grow in warmer climates, while in much colder (to zone 5 & maybe 4) they will delay bloom until spring. But for Puget Sound they are champion winter bloomers.

'Mediterranean White' is probably the same as 'Silberschmelze' if not the Award of Garden Merit improved 'Silberschmelze' called 'White Perfection.' There are perhaps a dozen clumps of 'Mediterranean White' in sunny gardens in one of our friends' gardens, mixed with 'Mediterranean Pink' visible behind the white in the portrait above.

Although defined as a broadleaf evergreen, the leaves are very needle-like. So in later spring through early autumn when not flowering, it can give the impression of a shrubby dwarf conifer one foot or eighteen inches tall, with compact spread to two feet.

In conditions it likes, it requires little or no shearing to maintain itself as a perfect mound. If it does get messy looking from dead branches or brittle breakage, it can be sheered late in spring when it is done flowering, to remove dried-out blooms & dead bits of branches, but chiefly to restore the mounded shape.

It does not hold up so well if leaves fall on it or it is in a shadier location. Uncrowded & in the open it tends to reliably hold its shape & beauty. Full sun is best; it will flower little or not at all if it is in a shaded spot. They want acidic well-draining but not droughty soil, & may survive but not grow much in lighter or too dry a soil.

   



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