Heathers, along with the Three Day Week, loons and Demis Roussos, are redolent of the late 60s and 70s, and like Dahlias and grasses before them, are due a revival. A visit to the National Collections of Heathers at RHS Wisley could provide some inspiration – turn right from the restaurant and head out through the Pinetum – past the impressive but scary Metasequoia glyptostroboides
and laid out among the trees are island beds of heathers and small conifers.
I think the RHS must be trying to encourage footfall in this relatively quiet part of the garden, with a two storey bird hide, a wildflower meadow, a display of plants for bugs and some picnic tables. It’s also an area where younger visitors can let off steam without damaging plants or vexing those visitors who only seem to know ‘well behaved’ children, who would never touch the tufa in the alpine house for the fun of hearing the alarm go off (my son – now grown into a responsible twenty something).
Alys Fowler wrote a piece in the Guardian last weekend suggesting that “it is time to rescue heather from the pile of naff plants” and making suggestions for types tolerant of a non-acid soil. Thank goodness for National Plant Collections – conserving plant diversity through the vagaries of fashion. So put on your kaftan and peruse these gems.
The trees in the Pinetum, despite the season, are magnificent, but maybe a little large for the average sized garden.