Heather is one of our most common outdoor decoration plants this time of the year.
From my youth I remember being told by a Swedish friend (I can’t remember whom, though) that having heather in the house was supposed to be unlucky and connected with death. Happily unaware of this superstition I had been picking wild heather for indoors decoration, and someone objected to it. (Well, I never was superstitious anyway…)
Searching the internet now, I find the “unlucky” superstition listed in several Swedish web sites. In English, however, the connotations seem to be just the opposite: Purple heather is associated with admiration, beauty and solitude; pink heather with good luck; white heather with protection from danger.
In Britain, the idea that white heather is lucky was popularised by the Victorians. White heather is less common than purple/pink. Folklore suggests that it grows over the final resting places of faeries, or on patches of ground where no blood had been shed.
The origin of the Swedish superstition I have not been able to find, except that besides death, to have heather indoors also seems to be associated with “inviting poverty”. Perhaps that’s where it comes from: Heather being used by poor people for different purposes, and so becoming a sort of anti-status symbol.(?)
The Latin name is Calluna Vulgaris. Calluna is derived from a Greek word meaning 'to sweep', and the plant was used to make brooms. Vulgaris means 'common'.
Anyway, I just love that street decoration in the top photo above: the heather in the old milk can, which I found outside a shop in town.
The second picture is from a garden center, just to show you that we do buy lots of it – although I think still mostly for outdoors use.
PS. I forgot to add: In Sweden each province is represented by a flower or plant, and heather is the province flower of Västergötland, where I live.