Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, May 22, 2015

Calluna vulgaris is my favorite plant in the garden, this week

Yes, the common, usually boring, heather is my favorite plant in the garden this week. I want to highlight one plant, in particular, though. As I've shared before, one year there arose a carpet of baby heathers in various colors. I'm still not sure whether they were seedlings or spontaneous mutations (sports) arising from trimmings that fell to the ground and rooted. I'm still leaning toward the latter. A few new ones still show up occasionally, here and there, but nothing like the plethora of that one year.

One of the plants that came out of that sports festival (haha, punny...) was a particularly woolly, blue-grey plant that has surpassed all the other fuzzy grey heathers that appeared in my garden. It may even have a stronger color than any I've seen in nurseries, though I'm willing to bet nurseries specializing in heaths and heathers have comparable selections.

It's especially wonderful on a misty or foggy morning. The fuzzy little leaves capture condensation and the whole plant glows and sparkles (yes, both).

The grey foliage contrasts nicely with the pink and red stems of the new growth. The color does diminish as the season progresses, but it remains a nice smoky grey.

The stats on Calluna vulgaris:

  • Hardy in USDA zones 4a-9b
  • Full sun, but tolerates some shade
  • Fairly drought tolerant, but best with deep watering every other week or so during the hottest parts of summer
  • Best in acid soil with good drainage, tolerates clay (this plant is growing in dense, packed clay, slightly sloped)
  • Generally grows 1-2' tall by 2-3' wide (not sure what this specific selections ultimate size or growth habit are, as it is sheared annually, currently about 6-8" tall by a little over 1' wide)
  • Blooms in late summer/early fall, with flowers ranging from white through lilac, pink, to almost red (this selection is either lilac or fuchsia with white)


Many heathers have showy flowers and I love them for their late season show, but I admit to not remembering what this one looks like in bloom. With this one, it's really the foliage that does it for me. My favorite plant in the garden is hosted by Danger Garden. Tune in at the end of the month to see a round-up of her favorites and the favorites of other bloggers.

14 comments:

  1. Nice choice! Heathers are relatively exotic here.

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    1. Thanks Kris! Heathers are fairly exotic on the east coast, too. If I hadn't spent time there, heathers as exotic would have been an alien concept for me. Have you ever tried any of the South African heaths (Erica species)?

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  2. Very nice. Although I prefer heath to heather, I love the fuzz and would look for a fuzzy heather next time I'm in a nursery. I'm never sure when to shear them, or rather when they are quite done blooming.

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    1. Thanks, Chav. I generally prefer heath over heather, too, but I love the orange/yellow heathers and this fuzzy grey one. They're supposed to be sheared in fall after they finish blooming, but I like the seed capsules so I wait until late winter/early spring to do it.

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  3. Oh even that's sweet! The over all photo had my interest but the close up really is amazing!

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    1. I may really have something special here if I can get an exclamation out of you regarding a Calluna vulgaris.

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  4. What great fun when a plant appears, apparently unbidden, of its own accord...and such a pretty one, too. I have appreciated heathers for the way they can weave a garden together. Mine have been left to their own devices, but I do like the look after shearing and some of mine are beginning to get out of hand.

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    1. I've always liked them too, though I have gotten a little sick of the majority since I had so many of them in one bed. So few choices with deer around. I let my orange heathers grow more loosely because I love their habit. I think I should do that with all of them, now that they have room to spread a bit. Shearing is good to keep them looking full, though.

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  5. That's a really lovely little heather - that fuzzy silvery-blue foliage against the red stems is really spectacular, Matt

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    1. Thanks, Matt. I'm quite taken with it, too.

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  6. That is a gorgeous rounded heather, I haven't seen one with silvery grey leaves and pink stems before. Perhaps you can develop a new cultivar.

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    1. Thanks, Hannah. It's only rounded because it gets sheared every year. If I remember correctly, it had an interesting habit when it was younger. I'm going to let it grow a little more naturally and also propagate it and let the babies grow completely naturally to see what they do. I've thought about doing some research to see if this one is unique enough to name.

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