A little bit about hebes
Hebes are like that smart suit you own that can be dressed up and made to look pretty or left plain but neat. Hebes are neat, tidy plants that don’t demand much care or attention. Most grow around 1-1.5m high and wide, with a naturally rounded shape and small, dense leaves.
They are extremely pretty when they are in flower, as the shrubs are massed with small spires of white, purple, blue or pink flowers. Most are very long flowering and produce flushes of flowers from late winter or early spring right through to autumn.
Each flower spire is made up of many small blossoms that bring bees and other beneficial insects to the garden. Early and late flowering varieties – that is, those that start flowering in late winter or that continue to bloom well into autumn - are a good source of nectar for insects.
These rounded, evergreen shrubs can be grown as part of a massed low-care planting, trimmed as a hedge or used as a feature plant in a garden or a container.
While the flowers are pretty, some species are grown for their foliage. Some species have small, dense leaves giving the plants the look of a small, neat conifer. Hebe buxifolia (pictured in header) has small, dense leaves, very much like a box plant, but also produces compact spires of white flowers.
Other varieties have larger, more colourful leaves edged in cream, white or pink or combinations of colours. There are also varieties with deep burgundy new growth. ‘Lemon and Lime’ has an eye-catching combination of lemony-yellow stems and lime-green leaves.
The species commonly grown in gardens are native to New Zealand but have been bred, developed and are grown in gardens around the world. There are also species that are native to Australia and to South America.
‘Inspiration’ is a reliable, long-flowering variety with purple-blue flowers and purple stems. ‘Sunset Boulevard’ has bright pink blooms. ‘Wiri Cloud’ has pretty, pale pink flower spires that fade to white with age. This variety is resistant to powdery mildew. It is part of the ‘Wiri’ series of hebes, which were bred in New Zealand at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.
‘Heebie Jeebie’ is another disease-resistant hebe. It has spikes of purple-blue flowers and shiny green leaves. Its peak flowering is in late winter and early spring.
Hebes are best suited to cool and temperate climate gardens. They also grow well in coastal areas.
The benefits of growing hebes in cold climate areas are that they are both evergreen and frost tolerant. These leafy green plants offer an evergreen highlight amid winter-bare shrubs and trees.
Grow hebes in full sun or with afternoon shade and with regular water. Hebes grow best in well-draining soil. Plants can be pruned lightly after a main flowering flush. Feed them annually in spring as they burst into new growth.
In humid conditions, some hebes may develop dieback or suffer from fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, which attacks the leaves. Diseases can be treated with fungicide such as Amgrow RotGuard and with improved growing conditions. If you have poorly draining soil, grow hebes in raised beds or containers to give them the drainage they need and reduce the likelihood of disease problems. Also select varieties bred for disease-resistence.
Hebe buxifolia pictured.