Speaker: Phil Jognor
Date: 26th March
Our speaker, who was introduced by Chairman Liam Hutchings, has been interested in and growing Heathers for a very long time and speaking about them to Horticultural Groups for 25 years. He told us that he was representing The Heather Society although he was a listed Hampshire Federation of Horticultural Societies speaker.
His slide show started with heathers in the wild, then went on to heathers in gardens and finished with cultivation and propagation hints and methods. The acid heathland in the New Forest, the moors of Dartmoor, Dorset heath, and the Cornish heathland, all support our native heaths and heathers.
Calluna Vulgaris is our most common heather with Erica Cinerea growing on the drier sites and the pale pink cross leaved heath, Erica tetralix in the boggy parts. Erica ciliaris or Dorset heath grows around Studland and in Cornwall.
But the Serpentine areas of Cornwall are the habitat of the Cornish Heath (Erica vegans) which is unusual in not enjoying acid conditions, favouring the more unusual alkaline terrain of the Lizard peninsular. Colours vary from off white through the pinks to deepest purple.
Phil told us that it was possible to have heathers in flower in our gardens every month of the year. They are sun loving plants and collections can be seen in Palmerston Park in Southampton or in the RHS garden at Wisley for example and are best displayed in informal shaped island beds or low banks to show the plants off.
They are evergreen, some are bi-coloured and some fragrant and beloved of bees. Growth habits vary from very low growing, a few inches, to the massive Tree Heathers which can grow to 30 or 40 feet tall. Some are particularly floriferous and others valued for their foliage colour. Phil showed us slides of numerous named varieties and then went on to give us tips for general cultivation.
As a rule, heathers which flower in the winter or early spring can be grown in most soils whereas most summer flowering heathers require acid soil. Use ericaceous compost for cuttings taken in June/July/August.
Pure vermiculite or grit based medium can be just a successful. Use tip growths and pull off the leaves, a growth hormone is not needed. Put the pots in a damp frame or mist propagator, shade and don’t forget to label. Keep them moist and pot up in the spring. After a year the plants will be ready to plant out in the prepared beds, enriched with composted bark and blood, fish and bone. Plant out in a patchwork in groups of three of different heights about 18 inches apart.
They should grow together in about two/three years. Mulch the beds with bark in winter and sheer the plants down after flowering. Phil advised that a soaking once a week is a good watering regime rather than little and often. He also suggested interspersing the plants with crocus, dwarf tulips, rhododendrons or azaleas or cyclamen hederifolium or coum. Pieris, acers or slow growing conifers can also be used for variety.
Phil’s enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and kept our attention throughout his informative and well illustrated talk.