There is apparently a heather for every month of the year, especially if you have acid soil as I do. I love the heathers that come out in January/February when there is so little else “flowering”. These heathers are also very important for the first foraging bees when they emerge in spring.
There are two main types of heathers – Calluna, or ‘true’ heathers like C. vulgaris that we see across moorland and mountain in late summer, (also known as Ling). The second group is Erica (bell heather), including heaths and this group have been widely bred for the garden.
Heather had many uses, from cattle fodder and bedding to thatching roofs and making brooms. And always used to make a springy camp bed when Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were out on their adventures. The flowers can be used for making sweet tisanes, ales and beers. Fraoch (Heather Ale) being Scotland’s original craft beer, according to this brewer’s website. Heather also gives an orange dye. Bees love heather and heather honey is supposed to have a superior taste, differing depending on the type of heather the bees are feeding on. A hive on a heather moor can produce 15kg (33lb) of honey in two weeks.
White heather is long associated with good luck in Scotland (for the giver and the receiver) and there is a tradition of adding a sprig to a bride’s bouquet. I like also like to incorporate heather into the buttonholes I provide.