H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Erica Carnea - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Erica Carnea Described.
Erica Carnea - Winter Heath; Nat. Ord. Ericaceæ.
A well-known, hardy, evergreen shrub, belonging to a genus comprising many hundreds of species and varieties, which, for the most part, however, are not hardy in this country, being natives of the Cape. The genus is most numerously and beautifully illustrated in Loddige's Botanical Cabinet. This might be thought to have no claim to consideration in this book, but I introduce it because of its great value in the spring garden, and because in all respects it may be cultivated like an ordinary border plant, which is saying a deal for one of the Heath family.
Erica carnea comes to us from Germany, but it has so long been grown in this country that it would appear to have become naturalised in some parts. In the latter part of March it is to be seen in its full beauty; the flowers are reddish-purple, abundantly produced on short leafy stems, and arranged in racemes, drooping; the foliage is of the well-known Heath type; the whole shrub has a procumbent habit, rarely growing more than a foot high; its fine deep green foliage, compact habit, and bright enduring flowers are its chief recommendations; the latter often last six weeks in good form and colour, so that little more needs to be said in its praise.
It can hardly be planted in a wrong position—on rockwork, in borders, or shrubberies, fully exposed, or otherwise, it proves a cheerful object, whilst as an edging shrub it is second to none, excelling box by the additional charm of its flowers. Not long since I was struck by the way in which the common vinca had interlaced itself with a few bushes of this Heath, both being in full bloom at the same time; the effect was truly fine, the red of the Heath and pale blue flowers of the periwinkle being so numerous and set on such a fine bright green carpet, of two distinct types of foliage, that to my mind they suggested a most pleasing form of spring bedding, and also one of semi-wildness, which, for quiet beauty, more laboured planting could certainly not excel. Most Ericas require peaty soil; in the case of this, however, it is not necessary. Doubtless it would do well in peat, but I have ever found it to thrive in ordinary loam or garden soil, so that I have never planted it otherwise, except where peat has been the most handy. It is also easily propagated, carrying, as it does, plenty of root as well as earth with each rooted stem; these only need to be carefully divided and transplanted in showery weather, just before the new growths commence being the best time. An annual top dressing of leaf mould is very beneficial.
Flowering period, February to April.
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