“ Hebe albicans. Red margins to grey leaves, becoming more vivid as it becomes colder. Red-edged, blue green leaves set this wonderful variety apart. Leaves are densely set on stiff branches with lilac flowers, fading to white in mid summer. „
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Having hard pruned a large shrub behind my pond, I realised too late my mistake. My view through the window whilst dooyooing was now a concrete fence post. What to do? An hour later I was back home with a statue of Hebe, goddess of youth and cupbearer to the gods. It is amazing what you can carry in the boot of a Ka2! With the help of a friend I carried the heavy lady to the bottom of the garden and up above the pond to hide the fence post. It took quite a few evenings of worried double takes before I remembered that I didn't have someone standing on my property; but once some plants had enfolded her, Hebe enhanced my view beautifully. The Hebes which I have in my garden in colouful bloom during these grey november days are not statues though, but a variety of shrubs originally grown in New Zealand. Nowdays there are over 100 varieties and I would not be without several of them. If you are beginning a garden and want to ensure an easy to grow and maintain display all year round, I cannot think of a better genus. Originally called Veronica, these plants come in a wide variety of foliage, flower shape, colour, structure and size and yet, somehow, are soon recognisable for what they are. Some dwarf varieties with dark shiny leaves and small purple spears growing from within the bush are ideal for the front of a border. Another, Great Orme, a rounded yet open bush with glossy mid-green leaves has bright pink spears which turn white as they fade. The effect is a bush with two colours of flower. Said to grow to 6', mine generally reach about 3' before I prune them back. In front of my window I have a hebe which is in full bloom showing large deep pink spears among darkish green leaves which will continue flowering all winter. I dead-headed it during the summer and it started to come out again about a month ago. The joy of these plants is that even those which have a short flowering time keep their leaves during the winte
r. One is a rounded bush with tiny pure white flowers which give the effect of thick snow-covering for a short time during early summer. The brief flowering of this variety is more than made up for by the shape. This is a tiny-leafed, dome shaped bush, which nevertheless also grows sideways over time. I have one on a raised bed which is about 6'wide and a couple of feet high. It has kept it's domed top, but undulates, giving structure among the more freely shaped shrubs in the bed and making it an anchor point to grow things around. From experience I expect it to reach about 3' in height over time, but can cut it back with care. I use secateurs instead of shears even on my lonicera hedge. A favourite Hebe is Autumn Glory which has masses of deep clustered blue flowers for most of the summer and autumn. Dead head it and you may well have another show. Many varieties belie their official flowering times and just have a rest and start again. When my sister moved to her new home a few years ago I bought her half a dozen different Hebes. Yesterday I gazed in wonder at her garden and the mass of colour and foliage still in evidence despite the time of year. The plants I was looking at had already been in bloom since early summer. There are more exotic versions now being imported and produced. Ask before you buy if they have the same properties as the ones we are used to. The colours range through all shades of blue and purple, reds, yellow, white and pink. Similarly the foliage can range from different shades of green to red-tipped, chocolate and silver. The height of these plants may be from 12" compact bushes to tall 6' showy plants, although I don't favour these last. As with the buddleia, butterflies and bees are attracted to the blooms of many varieties and they make an attractive hedge, particularly against a low wall, being ideal for the front garden. "What about frost?", you ask
. Well, I have had a bush harmed by a particularly hard frost. The poor thing was pretty much decimated. I systematically took out the tips of the leaves which were left and continued to do so, although it progressed to quite a detailed job. The shrub bushed out, growing two leaves to replace each of those I had taken, and is now the fine dense bush which I described earlier giving me so much pleasure outside my window. Living in the South East does give me a climate advantage Sometimes a nurseryman will suggest that the Hebe does not like being pruned. I prune mine if they outgrow the space I have given them without any problems. This is a plant with a not necessarily long life. Some have been giving me pleasure for over 10 years now, others have become unhappy with age and been replaced. One advantage is that cuttings take easily. Just remove a few shoots, dip in rooting powder and pot up or find a gap in the garden bed. I have even had the occasional Hebe seed itself. Like most plants, they like to be well drained. Apart from this any ordinary soil will do. In any case I dress my garden annually with multi purpose or old mushroom compost. Also, if whilst planting or digging, I find stones in the soil (don't we all?) I remove only the largest. These are my drainage aid in a naturally clay soil. Where do you find Hebes? Any good nursery will have them grouped together and should not be charging silly prices. You should see a colourful picture of each variety and will probably recognise several of them. It may well be like the songs we say we don't know until we hear them and they are identified. "Oh!" we say, "I know that one!" *Apologies for the item cat. There is not one for Hebe in General
Deciduous shrubs and popular herbaceous perennials manage to survive severe weather by dying back and resting in the winter. It’s more difficult for the evergreens, which need an adequate supply of water at all times to maintain their foliage. When the ground is frozen solid, they are unable to take up any moisture from the soil and during the prolonged freeze they’ll start to die off. Newly planted evergreen trees and shrubs are the first to suffer, as their roots haven’t had time to become well established in the soil. Remember to give them some special loving for a year or two after planting. Check young evergreens regularly and water as required. If your young evergreens are exposed to the cold wind protective screening would be helpful. Wind can quickly dry out the foliage. You can use old sacking or polythene sheeting. Even established evergreens can benefit from windbreak protection. If you notice that some of your bushes have a patch of brown, dead foliage down one side this has been caused by the drying effect of the wind. You can help them to survive beforehand if you plant in a sheltered part of the garden to begin with.