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A group of some ten or twelve species of dwarf, evergreen shrubs, with a dense overlapping arrangement of the leaves similar to that of the common heather. Flowers solitary, bell-shaped, white or pink. They are found in Arctic or mountain regions of the northern hemisphere. None of the species here mentioned is very common, although they have long been known in gardens. They are capable of withstanding intense cold, but do not thrive particularly well in the open in the south of England; they need cooler and moister conditions, and miss more than anything their natural winter covering of snow. They are excited into premature growth by our mild winters and early spring, only to suffer by severe weather later in the year. For this reason C. hypnoides and C. fastigiata are frequently grown in cold frames in winter. They should have a peaty soil surfaced with sphagnum moss, and never be allowed to get dry at the root. The Botanic Garden of Edinburgh has long been famous for its success with these interesting and dainty plants. Propagated by layers and by cuttings. In the open they should have an airy but semi-shaded and damp position.

Since the last edition of this work was published, interest in this lovely but exacting genus has been stimulated by the introduction of C. wardii and the re-introduction, in improved form, of other Himalayan species. It has been sustained by the skill and enthusiasm of many gardeners, notably R. B. Cooke, who first flowered C. wardii and has raised several beautiful hybrids, and S. E. Lilley, who exhibited almost every cultivated species of Cassiope at Vincent Square in the spring of 1965. The latter is also the author of two valuable and well-illustrated articles on the genus: these will be found in the Bulletin of the Alpine Gardening Society, Vol. 29, pp. 72-85, and in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, Vol. 90, pp. 302-5.

Two species of Cassiope – C. hypnoides and stelleriana – are by some authorities placed in the separate genus Harrimanella, distinguished from Cassiope by its alternate leaves and terminal flowers.

Species articles