An evergreen shrub up to 2 ft high, with slender, erect stems, furnished with glandular hairs. Leaves alternate, ovate-oblong, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. long, 1⁄10 to 1⁄4 in. wide, tapering at both ends, very dark glossy green and with a few scattered hairs above, covered beneath with a close white wool; stalk scarcely evident. During the summer a cluster of two or three small leaves comes in the axil of each leaf. Flowers produced from June to November in erect, terminal, glandular racemes, ultimately 3 to 5 in. long. Corolla broadly egg-shaped, 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, contracted at the mouth, where are four tiny reflexed lobes, rosy purple. Calyx with four glandular, hairy divisions, which are 1⁄8 in. long. Seed-vessel four-celled, hairy; flower-stalk 1⁄4 in. long.
Native of W. Europe, including Ireland, where it is found in Connemara. This beautiful little shrub is one of the most valuable we possess, flowering as it does from late June until after the autumn frosts come. It makes a charming picture planted in large patches, either of one sort, or more mixed. It may be propagated by seed, and its varieties by cuttings. The plants are better if pruned over in early spring, so as to remove the old flower-spikes and part of the previous year’s shoots. This tends to keep them closer in habit and more effective in blossom. It likes a peaty soil or a light, sandy loam, free from lime, with which leaf-mould has been mixed.
f. alba (D. Don) Dipp. D. polifolia var. alba D. Don – Flowers pure white; such plants are found wild with the type and said to produce white-flowered seedlings. The plant to which Don gave the name was found in Connemara c. 1832 (Sweet’s Brit. Flow. Gard., t. 276). As seen in cultivation, the white form is hardier than the type, with vividly green leaves that never burn or turn purple in the winter; it is also very floriferous and altogether one of the finest of dwarf ericaceous shrubs.
cv. ‘Alba Globosa’. – The plant dwarfer and more spreading than the type; corolla larger, almost spherical, white.
f. atropurpurea Dipp. – Flowers richer red-purple than in the type.
cv. ‘Bicolor’. – This variety has some of its flowers white, others purple, whilst others are partly white and partly purple; all on the same plant.
cv. ‘Praegerae’. – A less robust plant than the type, with flowers of a deep, pure pink. Discovered by Mrs Praeger in Connemara and put into commerce around 1948.