Winter heathers are completely unfazed by winter. Snow, ice and cutting winds leave their dainty bells shining in the weak sunshine and, unlike other heathers, they’re happy with a little lime in the soil. With wiry stems clothed in evergreen needles, usually deep green but sometimes in other shades, winter heathers are usually derived from Erica carnea, which grows wild in the Alps and other cool mountainous regions.
They often stretch sideways to make a good, weed-suppressing ground cover. Winter heathers thrive in sun and, although they tolerate a little shade, it can make their stems stretch too much, rendering them untidy. Some varieties start to flower as early as November, while others come into bloom as late as April – January to March is usually their peak. Few reach more than 25cm in height, but some make notable specimens.