Daboecia cantabrica ‘Alba’

Daboecia cantabrica ‘Alba’

St Dabeoc’s heath is a native Irish plant which is also found in south western France, through northern Spain and into north western Portugal. The flowers usually come in various shades of pink and purple but often different varieties occur giving us flowers with distinct shades and form. Charles Nelson’s A Heritage of Beauty records two dozen cultivars of Irish origin, one of which bears his name.

Coveted by horticulturists is a white-flowered form of a plant that usually bears much stronger coloured flowers. Daboecia cantabrica f. alba is one such example and has been recorded for centuries. At various times and in various places, a white sport or seedling will occur, often with some slight variation that can be used to tell them apart.

St Dabeoc’s heaths are attractive garden plants requiring acidic soils. For those of us without acid soils, they will quite happily grow in large pots or troughs. Plants tend to produce two periods of flowers, one in early summer and again in the autumn. To keep plants looking tidy, they should be pruned back once a year.

For information on the saint that the common name commemorates, take a look at Charles Nelson’s paper on the subject. It is available on The Heather Society’s website and makes for an interesting read. It is currently listed as being available from one nursery, the well-regarded Ashwood Nurseries Ltd.

(As appeared in Newsletter 149, July 2020. Text and photos courtesy of Brendan Sayers)