New Zealand has an extensive range of native flora, many of which have become favourite plantings overseas, including Australia.
The beautiful summer flowering pohtukawa (Metrosideros) glows in temperate or coastal climate while Phormium or flax offers a range of colour, texture and shape to the cool climate landscape.
The hebe, however, as New Zealand’s largest genus of flowering plants (more than 100 species and sub species), has the singular honour of having its own society, formed in February 1985.
While the trees that line either side of Anzac Parade in Canberra are the Australia eucalyptus E. bicostata, the central plantings in the raised boxes have long been reserved for the handsome hebe.
Whilst the original selection was long flowering purple H. speciosa ‘La Seduisante’, in recent years it has been replaced with a spontaneous seedling from Wellington named ‘Otari Delight’.
It was an unfortunate choice, for the pale mauve flowers that fade to white last but a few spring weeks.
In the home garden, hebes have a great following.
They are popular for use as small shrubs, with neat and attractive foliage together with abundant and long lasting bloom.
The plants mix well with lavender, pentstemon, the grey foliaged artemisia and ground covers such as lamb’s ears and snow in summer.
Grow in groups rather than single specimens for greatest effect in the majority of soil types, in either full sun or part shade. Most of them are attractive to butterflies.
Unless they are naturally compact, hebes should be pruned after flowering to prevent any legginess. Grow from seed or vegetative cuttings to save parent plants.
The cultivar ‘Heebie jeebies’ makes a delightful container plant, tolerating both frost and heat.
Others worth trying are ‘Varigata’, ‘Blue Gem’, Autumn Glory’, and the almost prostrate conifer look-alike Limelight.