Saturday, January 2, 2010

Heathers in a foggy bottom

We got off lightly last night. The temperature only went down to -8C. Enough, though, to freeze the water in the pump in our barn - we draw water from our own well here. No mod cons like piped mains water. Fortunately it thawed out pretty quickly with the help of a fan heater so we were only without water for a couple of hours - better than the three days we were without over Christmas.

So, with the arctic weather continuing there's not much change on the flora front. But today's blog is saved by yet another reliable winter flowerer - the winter flowering heather. It's in winters like this that its toughness and tolerance of cold is really appreciated.

We've got a couple of plants in a border to the front of the cottage. I have to admit that we inherited them with the cottage and we've not lavished them with much love and care. We've kept the weeds down a bit - that's about it. But that's the other beauty of these heathers, they're robust enough to stand up to some rough treatment and still put on a good show. And, unlike most heaths and heathers, they're not even too worried about having acid soil round their roots


Winter flowering heather on January 2

I'm not sure what varieties we've got, but I'd take a stab at Erica carnea 'Springwood White' and 'Springwood Pink'. Erica carnea is found in the wild in mountainous areas in central and southern Europe in the Alps - hence its tolerance to cold. A white form was discovered growing on Monte Corragio in Italy by Mrs Ralph Walker of Springwood, Stirling, Scotland in the 1920s. Originally just called ‘Springwood’ but changed when ‘Springwood Pink’ appeared as an offspring.

The Springwoods have remained the stalwarts of the winter heather world ever since although there are now many more cultivars available.

I can't see heathers without thinking of the wonderful Blooms Nurseries at Bressingham in Norfolk, England which were part of my education into horticulture in the 1960s. The nurseries were founded by one of the great characters in the world of gardening, Alan Bloom shortly after the end of WW2.

Heathers and conifers in Foggy Bottom at Bressingham

The nursery was perhaps most well known for popularising the use of herbaceous perennials by growing them in containers and so making them more widely available to gardeners through garden centres. But in the 1960s the nursery was at the forefront of promoting the use of heathers combined with dwarf conifers to create low maintenance beds with all-year-round colour interest. And they showed just how good these beds could look in the area of the gardens at Bressingham known as Foggy Bottom. A name that must have come from the imagination of Alan Bloom.

Nurseryman Alan Bloom at the controls of one of his locomotives

His other passion was steam locomotives and he set about building a collection of the locomotives then being discarded by British Rail and built a track round the nursery to show some of them off. His great joy was to take visitors round the nursery and few of them realised that the eccentric chap with the long flowing white hair and greasy overalls shovelling the coal and taking the controls was actually the founder, owner and boss of the whole establishment.

Alan Bloom died just a year short of reaching the age of 100 in 2005.


Leatherdykeuk said...

I like heathers. Trusty little servants, they are.

Peggy said...

Hi,thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment.I have read all of your posts and it is a very interesting concept ,putting the plants in their historical story in a very easy to read style.I am very familiar with all of the plants you write about but stil learned a lot about them from your posts.
I will definitely be visiting again.
Happy New Year to you and yours

DK Leather said...

what a smashing blog, I love heathers too. But the story of Alan Bloom was really fascinating, thanks!

Twisted willow said...

Trusty indeed LeatherD - we're going to be planting more this year.

Thanks for your kind comments Peggy and a Happy New Year to you too.

And thanks for your kind comments too DK. Gardening throws up some wonderful characters. I forgot to mention Alan's huge single bone earring which he'd obviously acquired long before such things were fashionable among men. A lovely man.