Not too hard a garden – There is a hebe everywhere in New Zealand

He has always been fascinated by the hebes, despite the challenges they pose in the gardens.

I’ve also been questioned about the veronica name change, and I still call them hebes, even though I admit I can’t argue with DNA.

Although their popularity seems to be growing here, it seems to me that they are valued more in Europe and the UK. When I visit European kindergartens, I was amazed at the huge number they cultivated.

Hebe townsonii.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

Hebe townsonii.

Their popularity in the UK is such that they are often featured prominently in flower shows, showcases and containers, and they even have a Hebe Company.

The foliage, shape and size of Hebei show remarkable variety, from extensive mulch to small trees. This is not surprising, as these flowering plants are our largest genus and, of course, occur throughout the country from coastal rocks to the mountains.

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The fact that they grow wild in such a wide range of habitats explains the difficulties they can cause in gardens. The key is to find the right plant for your location. Alpine species from the Southern Alps are unlikely to thrive in a warm, humid northern garden, while frost-sensitive northern coastal species do not appreciate hoarse frost. For example, the beautiful purple sunflower (Veronica speciosa) remains healthy and spotless in a windswept coastal garden, but the same plant is usually infected in protected terrestrial areas.

Hebe “Karo Golden Esk” at Broadfield Garden.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

Hebe “Karo Golden Esk” at Broadfield Garden.

The key to maintaining their health is to treat them harshly. They love open sunny places where the soil is free to drain and the more wind whistles around them, the better. High-nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided as this promotes new growth that is susceptible to disease infection. A slight cut after flowering keeps them tight and prolongs their life, and there is not much else.

I confess some of my bias when proposing hebes, as my experience is largely limited to Auckland cultivation, and I have made a number of hybrids. That’s why I asked some reputable experts to make suggestions, including Jill Simpson, who created the amazing Fisherman’s Bay Garden on the Banks Peninsula, where she grows a variety of hebes.

Jill Simpson Colorful Hebei, a

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

Jill Simpson’s colorful Hebei, “Pride” and “Totara Pink.”

Simpson uses it Veronica pinguifolia ‘Sutherlandii’ for the whole garden structure. Although it doesn’t usually bloom well, this attractive, fleshy, grayish-green foliage pile is attractive all year round. This species also performs well in the north and certainly deserves more popularity.

Simpson finds that “Wiri Mist” is always reliable, a feeling echoed by another Heber enthusiast, Fiona McDonald, who grows remarkable herbs in the garden of Awhitu overlooking Manukau Harbor. It remains particularly compact and forms an attractive little hedge; McDonald says he knows about a collateral that is strong even after nine years.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

“Wiri sucks.”

‘Wiri Mist’ was one of my early releases and I still consider it one of the best as I have seen it look healthy and attractive in gardens from far north to south. Flowering peaks in late spring or early summer, when white flower masses suffocate the foliage.

Simpson also appreciates ‘Beverley Hills’ as it produces many purple-blue flowers each year and is easy to grow.

They both like “Pride” because of its foliage and flower color as well as its overall good health. While it can be quite large, it responds well to bounces.

'First Light' is a ground cover with fleshy foliage that turned bronze at a young age.  Pink flowers appear sporadic.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

‘First Light’ is a ground cover with fleshy foliage that turned bronze at a young age. Pink flowers appear sporadic.

McDonald effectively grows “First Light” in his garden, where it flows through a retaining wall. At best, it is a good ground cover with new growth in bronze color and pink flowers, but it remains a mystery, it blooms in some places and performs poorly in similar-looking conditions in others. It’s another hybrid, and it got its name from the new millennium.

Many of the hebe I tried with the bronze new plant were disappointing, but ‘Pretty’ n ‘Pink’ was very impressed. This relatively healthy, compact shrub is grown for its dark, new growth rather than its pink flowers in summer.

“Wiri Charm” produces rose-purple flowers, mostly in summer.

‘Wiri Splash’ is an underrated shrub with yellowish-green foliage and purple flower masses in early summer.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

‘Wiri Splash’ is an underrated shrub with yellowish-green foliage and purple flower masses in early summer.

I prefer ‘Wiri Splash’ because of its purple-toned flowers in early summer, which are located above attractive yellowish-green foliage but are harder to find.

“Wiri Desire” is attractive hebe speciosa hybrid is best grown near the coast.

While I love the purple flowers of ‘Wiri Prince’ in the winter, it’s another that needs a lot of wind to prevent disease and can become legless if it doesn’t prune after flowering.

Veronica diosmifolia is a variable species, with flowers ranging from white to lavender and lilac.  The compact shapes form an attractive little hedge.

JACK HOBBS / Stuff

Veronica diosmifolia is a variable species, with flowers ranging from white to lavender and lilac. The compact shapes form an attractive little hedge.

“Sandra Joy” also has purple flowers and is usually a better garden item.

Veronica diosmifolia it is hard to beat in the northern gardens. In the wild, it ranges from small compact shrubs to white to lavender flower-colored trees.

As a result, there are a number of choices available, all of which result in wonderful, reliable garden plants where the frost is not too strong. ‘Wairau Beauty’ is a reliable old variety with mauve spring flowers and has a popular compact shape that provides good ground cover.

Veronica townsonii a beautiful but undervalued cold-tolerant shrub that still thrives and performs well in the north. V. topiara has beautiful greenish foliage and forms an attractive, compact hedge that rarely needs to be pruned. In cooler climates, it brings white flowers in the summer, but it has never bloomed in my garden.

NZ Gardener

Jack Hobbs, a long-serving curator at Auckland Botanic Gardens, placed all the plants in his own private garden in Pukekohe.

Gardeners living in cooler climates are likely to choose from more bites than their northern counterparts, where diseases can be so distorting. These include the amazingly beautiful types of whips that, in my experience, end up spreading north and rarely bloom, while in cooler climates they become wonderful garden objects.

‘Karo Golden Esk’ is a deservedly popular hybrid whip that resembles a small conifer and turns golden in winter. It performs better than most whip ropes in the north, but still performs better and thrives better in cooler areas. I recently admired David Hobbs at the stunning Broadfield NZ Landscape Garden in Weedons, Canterbury, where he featured magnificent long edges made entirely of native plants.

I would advise you to keep trying if some bites don’t meet your expectations at first because there will be some that will thrive and give real value to your garden.

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