HELEN LANG: Heathers never liked this non-Scottish gardener

Last week Annie and David took me to see his cousin’s garden in west Sidney, and what a lovely sight it was. But first of all, I’d like to tell you that Mary looked as though she were dressed for the part. She looked exactly as I imagine a wood-nymph looks, long black stockings with a jerkin overtop, short and bright green with a black pattern running through.

As for the garden, it was elegant, even at this time of year. There is a small pool fed by a waterfall, surrounded by low shrubs, looking as though it had been there always. The grass in the centre of this garden slopes down gently from the house level and as you approach, there is a tree surrounded by a bed of mauve polyanthus (no weeds here). Against the north side of the house is a bed of hostas (not yet visible) in the centre of which is a large pink hydrangea (neither flowers, nor leaves, visible yet). Farther west is a large bed of bearded iris, which must be a wonderful sight in late spring. I want to go back then.

I heard the first power lawnmower this past week. My heart goes out to the mower. The beginning of a whole season of enthusiastic and persistent lawn growth. I’m all for widening the flower beds and planting either a hardy ground cover or spreading pea gravel to provide a walking surface. Stepping stones add to the neat appearance and are easier to navigate than the gravel. Sell the mower.

Today let’s talk about heathers. I have just talked to an expert, (a Scot, of course) who has the loveliest display of heathers I’ve ever seen (never having been to Scotland). Bunty had planted them in a large circular bed, every variety she could find, in full sun, in a soil well augmented with peat, with excellent drainage. She says they require very little water which is great. I was determined after seeing hers to have at least a couple of heathers and went about it seriously, but my father was an Englishman and my mother an American, so my heathers were never a success. They hated me and every time I tried they died, so reluctantly, but sensibly, I gave up and planted iris, scilla, daffodils and shrubs.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.

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