By Chris and Valerie
Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, United Kingdom, 2002, ISBN
1 86108 2916, paperback, 149 pages 210 × 275 mm, $NZ59.95.
Review by Tony Hayter
The Hebe Society
his permission from
The New Zealand Garden Journal (Journal of the Royal New Zealand
Institute of Horticulture), Vol. 5, No. 2, December 2002, p. 20.
Chris and Valerie Wheeler
founded Siskin Plants, a nursery specialising in dwarf plants, in
the aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987. They hold the National
Collection of Dwarf Hebes. The business has recently been sold,
but they will continue to hold the national collection, and sell
a wide range of dwarf hebes by mail order.
The introduction to this
book states that its aim is to give ideas on how to enhance the
garden with hebes, and practical advice on growing and maintaining
hebes. Hebe is a diverse genus, with a hebe for most situations
in the garden. Their popularity has steadily increased over the
last 20 to 30 years, which has led to an increased interest in breeding
hebe hybrids, and a correspondingly large number of new introductions.
Opposite the introduction there is a full-page photo of a single
raceme of Hebe 'Nicola's Blush'. This stunning photo is
the first of many. In fact, this book is full of excellent photos,
beautifully produced and full of practical information useful for
anyone who grows hebes.
In Chapter 1, "Origins
and Characteristics", Chris and Valerie give an introduction to
New Zealand and its plants, of which Hebe is the largest
genus. They state that hebes are found also in Australia, although
I think they are referring to parahebes. They then examine New Zealand's
wide range of habitats, and show that hebes fit into all of these.
The suitability of hebes for growing in the northern hemisphere
is discussed, and is followed by notes on the breeding of new hebe
hybrids. The authors describe the various forms of hebe flowers,
hebe growth habits, leaves, stems, winter colour and hardiness.
Again these characteristics are shown in colour photos.
In Chapter 2, "Using
Hebe in the Border", the authors move into the garden. They start
the chapter with two large colour photos, Hebe 'Midsummer
Beauty' and Hebe salicifolia, which certainly grab your
attention. They then discuss the use of hebes as an evergreen backbone
to borders, especially their importance in winter, when all herbaceous
plants have died down. The wide range of hebe leaf colour is important,
and here the more highly coloured new growth is mentioned. The authors
examine hebes in new borders, the wide variation in size and its
importance, uses for low-growing hebes, and the use of hebes as
a backdrop for other plants, statues or containers. The chapter
ends with the authors showing how to combine hebes with other plants,
and two suggested planting schemes. Both schemes are illustrated
with double page, colour sketches.
Chapter 3 deals with
hebes for rock gardens and raised beds. Their evergreen foliage
is again used as a green background, and a contrast with herbaceous
alpines. After covering the cultivation of hebes in rock gardens
and raised beds, they suggest two planting schemes, both illustrated
with double page colour sketches. In Chapter 4, Chris and Valerie
demonstrate which hebes to use for ground cover, as well as their
In Chapter 5, the authors
compose a symphony of hebes. They look at the points you should
consider when planning a bed consisting of hebes alone. These include
contrast of foliage, and the scale and shape of the planting. They
end the chapter with examples, using tables of hebes, and in double
page, annotated, colour drawings.
Chapter 6 is about hebes
in containers. Container gardening is increasingly popular, with
many variations possible in size and positioning. The smaller hebes
are best for containers, the larger ones quickly outgrowing the
space available. The authors consider the types of container available,
the choice of hebes for foliage and flowering, the use of frost
tender hebes, hebes in combination with other plants, and lastly
hebes in sinks. These themes are demonstrated with three double-page,
annotated, colour drawings.
In Chapter 7, Chris and
Valerie cover all aspects of the cultivation of hebe hedges, using
large, medium and small hebes. The hedges are nicely illustrated
with colour photographs. Indeed, there is a full-page illustration
of one of the best hebes, Hebe rigidula, which grows very
well in my garden.
Chapter 8 covers hebes
as standards, a topic on which there have been several articles
in Hebe News. The techniques for creating standards are
illustrated for Hebe rigidula, although larger and smaller
hebes can also be grown as standards. The authors also describe
topiary for hebes, i.e., growing them to a specific shape, such
as a sphere, cone, or as a ball on a stem.
Chapter 9 is about the
cultivation of hebes, and is one of the most useful chapters in
the whole book. The authors deal with topics such as the best position
to plant hebes, how to plant them in the border and in a container,
watering and feeding, and pruning and propagation. The chapter ends
with a troubleshooting section, the effects of drought, wind scorch,
frost damage, downy mildew and aphids. Again the excellent colour
photos show you which problem you have, and the text tells you how
to deal with it.
The last and largest
chapter describes one hundred hebes, many with an accompanying photo.
The authors note particularly successful plant combinations with
Both Douglas Chalk and
Graham Hutchins have written books on hebes. These have a strong
botanical flavour, and are more useful to the hebe aficionado. The
International Register of Hebe Cultivars by Lawrie Metcalf
is a very useful exploration of old hebe cultivars, but is not a
guide to cultivating hebes. If you wish to learn more about growing
hebes, and how to use them in your garden, this is the book for
version of this review appeared in Hebe News 17(4): 23-25
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