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The Heather in Lore, Lyric and Lay
The Heather Abroad - Cultivation in America


The Heather is not difficult to grow in the United States. It likes moisture at all times, but not at all a wet soil, and it prefers partial shade from warm sunshine, and shelter from sweeping winds. in the northern and mountainous parts of the country it behaves very well; but it is a question if it can be grown here with European luxuriance.

While not hardy in all situations, the plants do fairly well in New England. At Forest Hill Cemetery, Mass., there is a number of groups that receive no protection whatever. Around New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia they should need no protection. They all do well with a slight covering of leaves or meadow hay, and well repay the trouble, as they bloom nearly all summer.

All ericaceous plants have fine, hair-like roots, and, in common with all plants with roots of similar character, delight in light soil. They are well suited in soil containing many small stones, and of a sandy nature. The stones keep the soil open, which is what the roots desire. Such roots are often poor. Because of this it is inferred by many that the plants referred to do not care for better soil; but this is a mistake. The roots are suited in such situations, but the plants will show a marked improvement in growth if a mulching of good soil be given them. It has been found that the Heather grows most luxuriantly in a soil that contains a more than usual store of oxide of iron.

Raising Scotch Heather from seed requires as careful treatment as does the multiplication of any of the plants belonging to the heath family, by a similar method of propagation. The soil most suitable in which to sow seeds of Scotch Heather is one composed of good peat loam and sharp, clean sand, in equal parts. The soil should be made fine by passing it through a small-meshed sieve. Shallow earthen pans, or shallow boxes, are the most desirable receptacles for sowing the seed in, although preference should be given to the earthen pans, as there is less danger of fungous attacks by their use than in the case of the wooden boxes. The pans should be well drained with broken crocks, and a layer of sphagnum moss should be placed over the crocks, so as to prevent the soil washing into the drainage. After the pans, or boxes, are thoroughly drained, put into them two or three inches of the above compost, pressing it down firmly and evenly. When this is done give the soil a watering with a fine rose, and after the soil has absorbed all the water the seeds may then be sown.

As the seeds are small, they have to be sown carefully and evenly over the surface of the material used, and very slightly covered with soil. The pans, or boxes, may now be placed in a temperature ranging from So to 6o degrees, and they must be carefully watched so that they may not get dry. When the seeds germinate, if there is any sign of fungus, the young plants should at once be transplanted into fresh soil, which is one of the best remedies to check damping off. If the seeds are sown in January, or February, the young plants will require to be transplanted several times during the first summer. This tends to make them vigorous for the future; and during the first winter it will be well to keep them in a cold frame. The following spring the plants may be set out in their permanent positions.

The Calluna is easily propagated by cuttings, under glass, during winter and spring, and by hillock layering; that is, sifting in sandy loam among the branches and keeping same moist for two or three months, when the plants so treated can be taken up and divided.

Make the cuttings, under glass, during the latter half of September, earlier further north, of from two to three inches in length, putting them in a mixture of sandy peat in a close, cool frame, facing north. When rooted they can be placed close around the edge of a six-inch pot, using moss, peat and loam, mixed. A temperature of 40 to 45 degrees is suitable in which to grow them, and great care should be exercised as to watering, so as to avoid too much moisture at the roots.

There is a growing affection for the plant as a garden subject in America; not long ago a landed proprietor in Massachusetts expressed the desire to cover a hillside on his estate with the Heather.

On a recent visit this year to Biltmore, N. C., the author observed numerous plants of Heather, purple and white varieties, interspersed among the vegetation bordering the driveways leading to Biltmore House, the Southern home of Mr. George W. Vanderbilt. The plants appear to thrive well, evidently finding congenial conditions in this lovely mountainous district of the sunny Southland.

It may be well to state, however, that attempts have been made to grow the Heather in gardens in several other parts of the United States, with varying degrees of success. At Glen Cove, Long Island, a variety of Calluna vulgaris (Alporti) succumbed to the hard winter, the stems splitting just above the surface of the ground.

In the Botanic Garden at Washington, the superintendent of which is a Scotsman, Mr. Wm. R. Smith, Heather has a hard struggle for existence. There it is grown in a cold frame, in pots, covered with a sash in winter, and with lath slats in summer. It has been tried there in the open border and in the rock garden, but all to no purpose. When a dry spell, with hot weather, came along, the plants could not withstand these conditions, and so perished.

When the statue was erected to the poet Burns in Washington Park, at Albany, N. Y., Mr. Peter Kinnear, a prominent Scotch citizen there, procured some plants of Heather from Mr. Smith at Washington to be placed around the base of the statue. The plants arrived in the fall, were put in a cold frame, and the following spring, as soon as the flower buds began to swell, were taken up and planted.
The statue faces south, is in the open, and receives the full strength of the sun for the greater part of the day. The soil was specially prepared for the plants, stiff, clayey loam being thrown out, good drainage supplied, and friable, sandy loam, with some leaf mould, being substituted. The plants bloomed well, made some growth in May and June, and succumbed during the heat of July and August.


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