Erica carnea vivellii or Spring Heath
Erica carnea vivellii
The generic name is derived from the Greek word ereikein meaning to break, perhaps in reference to the fragility of the wood. The genus contains some 500 species of heaths found mainly in South Africa, the Mediterranean region and in northern to western Europe. They are mostly small, low shrubs with persistent, opposite, scale-like or needle-like leaves. Theare borne in terminal clusters — racemes, spikes or panicles, or in the axils of the leaves.
The spring heath is a 20 to 30cm (8- to 12 in)high shrub from southern Europe. The flowers, which appear very early — in March and April — are coloured carmine red. This species has given rise to many garden forms differing in the period of flowering, colour of the flowers, colour of the foliage and growth. The variety vivelliiis distinguished by the foliage, which is dark green in summer changing to bronze for the winter, and by the carmine-red flowers. Under favourable conditions these appear as early as February. Of the other forms worthy of note are: ‘Winter Beauty’, pinkish-red, flowering from November to March; ‘Rubra’, red, flowering from December to January; ‘Springwood White’, white, flowering from January to March; ‘Atrorubra’, dark rose-pink, flowering from March to May, and ‘Snow Queen’, white, flowering from March to May.
Heaths are propagated by means of seeds, cuttings of half-ripened wood and division. The great diversity of colour and time of flowering allows for a wide range of combinations in the garden, particularly with heathers, blueberries, low rhododendrons and even herbaceous plants. They are also attractive planted in peat in a large mass to form a ground cover.