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Acer palmatum (Japanese maple). Decoratively-shaped purple or green leaves, good autumn colour. Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum). Silvery grey bark and maple-like leaves which turn crimson, purple, bright red and gold in autumn.

Magnolia. Tulip-shaped flowers of pink, white or purple, depending on variety. Some species will tolerate some lime, but in general these trees prefer a lime-free soil.


Camellias. Evergreen. Many colours and forms available.

Corylopsis pauciflora. Primrose-yellow flowers before leaves in March. Some shade required. Slow growing. 4 ft (1.25 m).

Enkianthus campanulatus. Pale cream flowers tinted bronze or red in May. Woodland conditions preferred. Brilliant autumn colour. 6 ft (1.8—2 m).

Hamamelis. The witch hazels eventually form small trees. Yellow or red flowers in December to March and bright autumn colouring.

Kalmia latifolia. Laurel-like evergreen leaves and pink flowers not unlike that of a rhododendron. 6 ft (1.8 m).

Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’. Evergreen leaves variegated cream, yellow, pink and green. Pitcher-shaped white flowers, May. 3 ft (900 mm).

Pernettya mucronata. Small leathery evergreen leaves, white flowers and white, pink or red berries on female plants. Will tolerate some shade. One male plant will pollinate 3 females.

Pieris. A genus of evergreen plants requiring similar conditions to rhododendrons. Flowers appear in spring and resemble lilies-of-the-valley. Some varieties have bright red young shoots and a variegated form is available. Most are slow growing.

Skimmia. Small evergreen shrubs with pink flowers and red berries on female plants. Can be grown on an alkaline soil, but tend to become chlorotic so are at their best in lime-free conditions.

Rhododendrons and azaleas

Cool woodland conditions and dappled shade best. There are many types available but the following are good for starters.

Hardy hybrid rhododendrons. All evergreens.

‘Britannia’. Scarlet-crimson. May-June. 4 ft (1.25 m).

‘Pink Pearl’. Huge pink flowers. 7-8 ft (2.1-2.5 m).

‘Purple Splendour’. Hardy hybrid. Purple flowers with black markings, June. 5 ft (1.5 m).

‘Sappho’. Hardy hybrid. White flowers with dark blotch. 6 ft (1.8 m).

Dwarf rhododendrons. Evergreens, suitable for rockeries and can be grown in full sun.

‘Blue Diamond’. Lavender-blue flowers. Scented leaves.

‘Curlew’. Large yellow flowers.

‘Linda’. Pink flowers, new leaves chocolate-brown. Rhododendron praecox. Semi-evergreen. Mauve, scented flowers, March. 4 ft (1.25 m).

Deciduous azaleas. May-flowering, flowers often scented, good autumn colour.

‘Gibraltar’. Glowing orange flowers. 4 ft (1.25 m).

‘Homebush’. Deep rose, double flowers. 4 ft (1.25 m).

‘Hotspur’. Flame-red flowers. 4 ft (1.25 m). ‘Persil’. Pure white flowers with orange flare. 4 ft (1.25 m).

Japanese azaleas. Evergreen. May-flowering. Useful for tubs.

‘Blue Danube’. Violet-blue flowers. 2 ft 6 in. (750 mm).

‘Hinomayo’. Pink flowers. 2 ft 6 in. (750 mm).

‘Vuyk’s Scarlet’. 2 ft (600 mm).

‘Palestrina’. Ivory-white flowers. 2 ft 6 in. (750 mm).


There are many attractive varieties, both winter and summer flowering. Erica carnea and X darleyensis will tolerate some lime, but in general, all heathers do best on a lime-free soil. Heathers look best planted in groups of the same variety spaced about 12—15 in. (300—375 mm) apart. A good collection to begin with would be:

Calluna vulgaris ‘J. H. Hamilton’. Bright pink, double flowers. August-September. 10 in. (250 mm).
Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Queen’. Silvery-grey foliage, purple flowers. August-September. 10 in. (250 mm).
Calluna vulgaris ‘Wickwar Flame’. Lavender flowers, orange-yellow foliage in summer, turning flame-red in winter. 12 in. (300 mm).
Erica carnea ‘Ada S. Collins’. Dark green foliage, white flowers, November-April. 8 in. (200 mm).
Erica carnea ‘Myretoun Ruby’. Dark green foliage, ruby-red flowers, February-April. 10 in. (250 mm).
Erica carnea Westwood Yellow’. Golden foliage, lavender flowers. February-April. 6 in. (150 mm).
Erica cineria ‘Cindy’. Bronze-green foliage, bright purple flowers, July-September. 6-8 in. (150-200 mm).
Erica cineria ‘C. G. Best’. Salmon-pink flowers, July-September. 12 in. (300 mm).
Erica darleyensis ‘Arthur Johnson’. Rose-pink flowers, November-May. 30 in. (750 mm).
Erica darleyensis ‘Silberschmelze’. White flowers, November-April. 18 in. (450 mm).
Erica tetralix ‘Pink Star’. Bright pink flowers, June-October. Grey foliage. 10 in. (250 mm).
Erica vagans ‘Valerie Proudley’. Golden foliage, white flowers, August-October. 8-10 in. (200-250 mm).

Herbaceous plants for acid gardens

Lime-hating herbaceous plants are not as common as calcifuge shrubs, but the following are useful in a mixed border.

Gentians. Most prefer acid soils. Tall and low-growing forms available.

Lupins. Although these will tolerate lime, the best flowers are produced on lime-free soil and the plants last much longer.

Iris kaempferi. Blue and purple flowers. Moist soil necessary.

Lithospermum ‘Heavenly Blue’. Prostrate, suitable for rockeries and the front of borders.

Meconopsis baileyi (Himalayan blue poppy). Cool, leafy soil essential.


There are a few conifers which grow or colour better on lime-free soils. Among these are –

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’. Steel-blue.
Ch. thyoides ‘Andleyensis’. Dark green, pillar-shaped.
Ch. thyoides ‘Ericoides’. Sea-green, turning bronze in winter.
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Hegans’. Feathery foliage turning red-bronze in winter.

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