Hebe (Shrubby Veronica)
Common name: Shrubby veronica
This group of evergreen shrubs is native to New Zealand, and for many years was included in the genus Veronica, hence the common name. Hebes are fairly short-lived, and vary considerably in hardiness. These are plants for mild districts where they are not subjected to cold winds. They are accommodating plants, and will grow in smoky or salt-laden atmospheres.
Numerous varieties are offered in garden centres, some with broad leaves and others that have tight, scale-like leaves resembling a whipcord. As a general rule, the larger the individual leaves are on a Hebe, the more likely the plant will be damaged — or even killed — by severe frost.
Hebes are easily recognized by their bottle-brush flower spikes usually produced in large numbers. They vary in size from bushes of 3m (10ft) or more, down to ground-hugging varieties, ideal for the front of a border or a rock garden.
Popular species and varieties
There are a great number of species and varieties available. Among them is Hebe salicifolia, which produces white-tinged-lilac flowerspikes on 3m (10ft) high bushes from late spring until late summer. H. macrantha (AGM) is not one of the hardiest and requires a warm spot, but it is a good rock garden shrub as it grows to just 60cm (24in); it also has white .
Another popular dwarf variety is ‘Baby Marie’, one of the first to flower. Growing to just 20cm (8in), it has reddish brown stems and pale lilac flowers. ‘ Caledonia’, with striking violet blooms each with a white eye, grows taller and reaches 45cm (18in), It has a long flowering period.
H, ochracea ‘James Stirling’ (AGM) is very different One of the whipcord types it is grown for its golden foliage. The white flowers are sparsely produced and then only on mature specimens, which never exceed 45cm (18in). This is a good plant to provide colour during the dull winter months.
Two bushy shrubs worth considering are ‘Autumn Glory’, with masses of violet-blue spikes, and ‘Great Orme’ (AGM), bright pink. Both bloom for many weeks during the summer months.
Soil type Most types of well-drained.
Planting Hebes are sun lovers so choose an open spot, but remember to check on hardiness. Planting can be done in the autumn or spring. The latter will enable plants to establish quickly as soil temperatures rise.
Pruning Not required. Should you need to cut back any branches, this can be done in the spring, but avoid cutting into old wood. Dead-heading will prolong the display of flowers.
Propagation Semi-ripe cuttings of non-flowering shoots may be taken in summer
Pests and diseases Very few problems.