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Building and Planting a Colorful Heather Garden

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2016

Step by step article on how to create a successful garden of heath and heather. See this garden as it started as a pile of topsoil and through the years until today.

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In this article I will discuss and show how we built and planted our attractive and colorful heath and heather garden. In the beginning it was just a pile of soil about 2.5 ft deep, 20 ft long and 15 feet wide. 

Next, we added driftwood for accents, and then planted 2 cypress trees. One is Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest', which is a golden form of the Monterey Cypress. The other, a smaller cypress, is 'Wilma Goldcrest' which is a sport off 'Goldcrest' and will grow about 1/4 the size of 'Goldcrest'. The planting distance between these trees would seem fine at this stage, but over time the two trees have melded together, and now it is hard to discern the two individual trees. The Japanese Maple, Acer parmatum 'Iijima Sunago' was already in this bed, and that is why it appears full grown already.

One important note regarding grading and topography. Sculpting the 'pile of soil' into what you see here involves some grading so it doesn't just look like a pile. It takes a little standing back and looking many times to make sure the topography looks natural as you shape the bed. Then, as you can see, we have added some rock for accents, then all of the heath and heather. Some plants are in groups of 3 or 5, while other stronger accent plants are just one here and there. The design is by our Landscape Designer, Ryan Scott, and he has his philosophy of how many of which plants for the best effect. 

Here is a view from a different vantage point. Plants are planted about 3 feet apart so they will join over time.

One more view just after planting.

Now I will show some 'after' photos. The inset is 1.5 years later showing how much growth has occurred in that time period. Notice that the heath and heather are still set off as individual plants. Now, in 2016 they appear as a mass planting.

Here is the garden 2 1/2 years later

3 Years Later

Here is another 'Before' photo showing 3 Erica carnea 'King George' in 2006 when first planted. There are 3 plants at about 2 feet apart.

This 'After' photo was taken in the winter of 2013. Notice how nice the winter foliage color of 'Ann Sparkes' looks against the flowers of 'King George'. Also, notice how the 3 plants of 'King George' are now looking like one. This is a spacing strategy. If you want the plants to stay looking like individuals, plant them as far apart as their 10 year estimated size given on the label or on the internet. Be aware that in our local area the growth may be larger as we have a year round growing climate. If you want the plants to merge and appear as a mass, then use a 1/2 - 2/3 of est. size spacing.

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