Like rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, Ericas (heath) are acid soil loving plants.
They dislike wet feet so if you have to plant them into heavy ground it would be helpful to add a generous helping of coarse sand, compost or pulverised cow manure.
Regular supplies of water are necessary over summer when Ericas draw heavily on supplies of moisture to sustain new growth.
Erica canaliculata is probably the most widely planted in Australian gardens. It is a striking plant that blooms freely for many weeks from early autumn. Maturing to 1.5 metres the tiny needle like leaves from the shrub are almost obscured by small rosy purple bells with prominent black anthers.
Erica carnea, the mountain or spring heath, is a low growing bush eminently suited to a large rock garden or foreground planting in an herbaceous border.
As one of the few species that will tolerate some lime in the ground, it has no special requirements other than summer water.
Unlike some cooperative shrubs, Ericas do not fall in the usual way, so spent bloom can sometimes could look unsightly unless clipped.
While most plants have a regular flowering season, others bloom on and off throughout the year.
With careful selection, the Erica garden could have a succession of bloom for many months.
Advanced cultivation is said to have begun when plants were first manipulated (and likewise propagated) in ways other than dictated by nature.
The Eygyptians trained vines in arching fashions. The Romans made use of pergolas to which vines were carefully tied. Pruning thereafter became a carefully regulated practice for, as Theophrastus noted, trees 'are much improved' by the removal of dead wood.
Winter heralds pruning time, along with a few words of advice.
Never attempt to cut a heavy branch from a tree with just one cut. The weight of the branch will invariably cause it to fall and tear the bark before the sawing in completed.
The first cut should be made on the underside of the branch at least 20cm away from the main trunk.
The second cut is made about 15cm further out.
The third and final cut is then made close to the to the main trunk but just beyond the 'collar' - recognised as a thickening or ridge on the upper side of the bark.
This 'branch collar' has a chemically protective layer with helps to protect the tree from disease so the it is important to keep this area intact.
A fruit tree without any branches?
No, it's not a figment of someone's imagination.
The story began in Canada almost 40 years ago. A Polish/Canadian gardener noticed something strange about his Macintosh apple tree. A single shoot was growing upright minus any lateral growth. However, it bore flowers and then carried full sized fruit.
The gardener sent budwood to his horticulturist at East Malling in Kent, notable for the strength of its dwarf root stock. The best 20 trees were selected for trials to be shown at Chelsea Flower Show, where they created intense interest and won a gold medal.
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