I don’t like heathers. Although they have their uses I suppose I don’t think they have much appeal in the garden. The fact that they need acid soils, which I have never had except in Ireland, means that the only way I could possibly grow them would be in a pot and there are far better things to grow in a pot than a heather. When they are at their peak, a bed of them can look stunning but then they get old and leggy and most people mistreat them and they look ragged and awful. But there are exceptions. The fascinating South African Cape heaths are lovely and I could get hooked on them. The Victorians were mad about them too. But, being peverse, of course these are sometimes tricky to look after and are not frost hardy.
But I will concede that I like winter-flowering heathers. They are tough, bloom in spring after the buds have looked good all winter and they tolerate lime. It is that last virtue that tips the balance for me.
The Mediterranean Erica arborea, which reaches about 3m, is a gem for well-drained soil in full sun and in spring it is covered in honey-scented flowers.
Erica carnea and the similar but bushier Erica erigena, also from the Med. are also easy and effective in full sun and offer a wide variety of colours.
The small blooms are an important source of nectar for early bees and overwintered butterflies – reason enough to include one or two in your garden.