Once the decorations have been packed away for another year, it’s time to get your gardening head on again! Early season planting is a great way of getting everyone in the family into the spirit of the growing year. If you can, get to work outside, otherwise spread some newspapers out on the floor and get ready to plant!
Visit the garden centre for containers, compost and some beautiful plants for potting-up. Children (of all ages!) will love the idea of ‘indoor gardening’ and planting-up containers will be a fun, rewarding activity for them if the weather is against you.
Erica or heath is the ideal choice of plant for early season gardening. It’s is an evergreen shrub, similar to heather, but unlike heather, many species and varieties of Erica will tolerate alkaline conditions, making it possible to grow them in a far wider variety of garden situations. And if you want to grow them in containers, you can manage the soil conditions to suit those species that must have acid soil. Check when you buy and get the right plants for your situation.
Sorts of Erica plants
Erica carnea (Alpine heath or Winter heath) is a prime choice for getting maximum benefit right now. Flowers may be purplish, pink or white, and foliage is generally mid to dark green, but can also be yellow, golden or even orange-red. Look out for Erica carnea ‘Ann Sparkes’, with its rose-pink flowers and dark golden foliage or ‘December Red’, with its pink to purplish flowers. The flowers of ‘Springwood White’ are fabulous, as is its bright green foliage.
‘Foxhollow’ is a good option - the colder it gets, the more interesting its foliage becomes. In normal winter weather, foliage is yellow with bronze tips, but as temperatures drop it becomes orange-red. Look out also for Erica carnea ‘Aurea’ which flowers from January to May. This one has gold foliage throughout the year, with orange tips in spring. ‘King George’ or ‘Winter beauty as it is also known, is another winner, bearing lilac-pink flowers from January to April.
Evergreen shrubs and conifers
Heaths make excellent partners for dwarf conifers, either in borders or in large containers. Alternatively, grow them with others of their own kind for a delightful display. They’re easy to care for and will give years of enjoyment.
Establishing evergreen shrubs and conifers is also a fantastic way of doing your bit to improve air quality. Evergreens have been proven to be effective at removing particulates (those horrible pollutants that are linked with a range of diseases and premature death) so that’s another powerful reason to get planting.
Colourful, tough and even potentially beneficial to our health, that’s what plants need to be able to earn their place in the garden at this time of year. The weather can throw anything at us, but we all want to kick-off the New Year with colour and fun. Erica is just right for this.