Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
It is true that there are many kinds of cut flowers available in the spring and summer months. However, the fall and winter offers some delightful blooms as well. The winter blooming heaths and heathers are an example.
The cut stems of heather are commercially available from November through March or April.
With a vase life of one to three weeks, heather stems are used mostly as a filler flower. In addition, they can be employed as a line flower. These are seen most often in floral arrangements for containers. They also appear in corsages. Often, the stems are also used for winter and spring weddings.
Heather blossoms are very tiny and bell-shaped. What they lack in size, they make up in terms of their abundance. Masses of them cover the woody stems. These give a delicate texture to designs.
Many different species and cultivars of heather are available. Although the blooms are often pink, these can come in other colors. Among these are white, purple, yellow, red, and even green.
The nice thing about most kinds of heather is that they can be used as an everlasting as well. So, donít discard the stems when the rest of the floral arrangement begins to fade. Just set these stems aside, and let them air dry. The flowers of certain species of heather may tend to shatter. However, you can spray the stems with a chemical to prevent this from happening.
When dried, the stems are used for wreaths and other types of everlasting designs.
Heath and heathers are related plants. The fact that some people use the names interchangeably can cause confusion. So far as their use and availability in floral design are concerned, the two groups are used in the same way, and have similar growing conditions to some degree.
In general, these plants like an acidic, well drained soil. However, winter heath (Erica carnea) will tolerate slightly alkaline soils, and actually grows best in neutral to acid conditions. This one really needs partial shade. In comparison, Cornish heath (Erica vagans) tolerates both full sun and partial shade.
While the majority of heaths and heathers may bloom from winter through the spring, it is actually possible to find some kind blooming in about every month of the year. The true heathers (Calluna) tend to start blooming somewhat earlier than the Ericas. These begin in late summer and fall. On the other hand, the heaths are found mostly from November through the spring.