This section is from the book "What England Can Teach Us About Gardening", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: What England Can Teach Us About Gardening.
Whether it is possible for us to grow heather by the acre here or not I do not know. There is a big patch of it at the park in Halifax. It is a wonderful plant for waste places, covering miles of cold-bog in Scotland, yet covering dry, gravelly slopes, as I saw at Cliveden. It makes a gorgeous show in August, but its colour is harsh and there is usually no shade to soften its garish-ness. Moss pink will clothe an American hillside with equally violent colour at less expense, though not, of course, in summer.
The main reason why heather is so precious in the old country is that every foot of ground worth cultivating is made the most of and therefore the wildness which the heart craves is sometimes far to seek. England has no real wildness — only symbols like broom and gorse and heather. We still have a little primeval forest.
I should not like to see miles of heather in America, because heather belongs to British character and not to us. Field mice will probably keep us from using it on a big scale, for they nest in it and gnaw the branches.
But a collection of heather is a very sweet and precious thing. This involves only a few beds. Here you may grow specimens from friends in Europe or localities you have visited. The common and Scotch heathers you can have in half a dozen colours. Then there is the alpine heath that marks the dawn of spring, the bell heather or cross-leaved heath which has bright green foliage all winter, the Cornish heath which blooms in October and has a sweet scent, the Irish heath which blooms from July till frost, Dabcec's heath which has drooping racemes, and so on.
The heath collection at the Arnold Arboretum is an eye-opener. It looks as if the books were mistaken in advising partial shade for heaths in winter, for they thrive in full sunshine at the Arboretum. Professor Sargent thinks that we have neglected one of the most important materials of landscape gardening and and that we could create great and splendid colour pictures with the hardy heaths.
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