Register of Hebe Cultivars
L. J. Metcalf, 232 pages,
Reviewed by Tony Hayter
The Hebe Society
his permission from
Hebe News, Volume 16, No. 2, pages 25-28.
Lawrie Metcalf is the
International Registrar for Hebe. In the introduction he
describes the frustrations of trying to obtain information for hebe
cultivars that have been raised outside New Zealand, where information
was either limited, or in some cases lost altogether. There is a
brief account of the current state of research on the limits of
the genus. This is followed by a brief history of the introduction
of hebes outside New Zealand, and the naming of the genus. Also
mentioned is that the Hebe genus can be divided into 10
informal groups (although hybrids between hebes in differing groups
can cause problems in assigning them to a group).
In the first section
Phil Garnock-Jones describes the origins and evolution of Hebe.
Hebe with Parahebe, Chionohebe and Heliohebe*
forms the Hebe complex, which occupies many regions and
habitats in New Zealand. By studying a range of characteristics
of the complex, including the DNA sequences, Garnock-Jones and fellow
researchers are able to infer their evolutionary history. (*The
paniculate group of hebes, e.g., Hebe hulkeana.)
Hebe and allies
probably evolved from the northern hemisphere Veronica
complex. The nearest relative is the Australian genus Derwentia,
which includes digger's speedwell. A significant evolutionary advance
was the closed terminal bud of Hebe, which protected the
growing tip from frost and allowed a shrubby habit.
Hebe and its
relatives seem to have arrived in New Zealand about 10-15 million
years ago, the parent having crossed the Tasman Sea. The Heliohebe
hulkeana group split early from Hebe. Chionohebe and
Parahebe are closely related and there may be some reclassification
necessary. Research is continuing, and a fully illustrated field
guide to Hebe is to be published in 2002.
The second section, by
Peter Heenan, relates the history of Hebe as a garden plant.
The first explorers of New Zealand sent plants to the leading botanic
gardens of Europe. After 1840 the explorations of resident botanists
(eg Colenso and Kirk) fostered the founding of domestic botanic
gardens and a horticulture trade.
Many hebes were sent
as seed to Britain in the 19th century. In particular
Isaac Anderson-Henry of Edinburgh did much to popularise Hebe.
By the end of the century there were about 40 species in cultivation.
At the beginning of the 20th century Dorrien-Smith sent
Wardian cases of New Zealand plants to Britain, including new introductions
such as Hebe buchananii and Hebe bollonsii. This
process has continued with botanists including Graham Hutchins collecting
and introducing hebes.
The first named hebe
hybrid was Hebe 'Rosea', raised in 1845 from open pollinated
seed of Hebe speciosa; indeed this species was a parent
in many 19th century hybrids. Anderson-Henry used it
in the first artificial hybrid, crossing with Hebe stricta
to give Hebe 'Andersonii'. Hebe breeding programs
have continued on and off in Britain and New Zealand, with Jack
Hobbs of Auckland raising the Wiri series in the 1980s.
The history of hebe cultivars
has been plagued by poorly described, poorly documented plants,
with no herbarium specimens. Indeed even botanic gardens had difficulty
with their species; it turned out that plants of Hebe cupressoides
were the hybrid Hebe 'Azurea'. Since 1840 there has
been a steady increase in the number of hebe cultivars introduced
The variety of habit,
leaf size, leaf shape, flowering time and habitat requirements of
hebes enables them to be grown in a variety of garden situations.
Training Hebe speciosa as a standard was accomplished as
early as 1847. Their use as pot plants was noted in 1887, and in
1990 over 2.5 million hebes were grown as pot plants in Denmark.
Much attention has been paid to the frost tenderness of hebes, the
early literature discussing it in 1880, with research continuing
to the present.
In the third section
of the register Lawrie lists over 1000 hebe cultivars. What makes
this particularly useful is inclusion of synonyms. Thus we are told
that Hebe 'Autumn Beauty' of New Zealand nurseries
is the same as Britain's Hebe 'Autumn Glory', and
that Hebe 'Knightshayes' is a synonym for Hebe 'Caledonia'.
The fourth section is a similar listing for Heliohebe.
Following this are 16 good colour plants of hebes.
The fifth and largest
section is the 'Biographical List of Hebe Cultivars'. This contains
descriptions, and the source for the descriptions, of nearly 700 hebes.
For example Lawrie gives us five references for Hebe 'Andersonii',
and follows with a brief description, and historical notes. The
length of the entries vary, the largest occupying a page, smaller
ones just one line; and depends on the amount of information available
to him. The sixth section lists the biographical data for the heliohebes.
This well produced book
will appeal to all members having an interest in the origins of
their hebes. The books by Douglas Chalk and Graham Hutchins are
largely horticultural, with a leavening of botany, so the International
Register of Hebe Cultivars will complement them well.
Available from: The
Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
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