A Guide to Species, Hybrids, and Allied Genera
By Lawrie Metcalf, published
by Timber Press Inc, The Haseltine Building, 133 SW Second Avenue,
Suite 450, Portland, Oregon, USA, 2006, 260 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-
88192-773-3, ISBN-10: 0-88192-773-2.
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. 9, No. 2,
December 2006, p. 26-27.
I bought my first hebe
in 1980, and my interest soon spread to other New Zealand plants.
So I soon bought a second hand copy of Lawrie Metcalf's The Cultivation
of New Zealand Trees and Shrubs (republished in 2000 as New
Zealand Trees and Shrubs). This has been a constant companion,
with its mixture of horticulture and botany, presented in a clear,
thoughtful and comprehensive way. There was the pleasure of anticipation
when I heard that Lawrie was proposing to write a book on growing
hebes, the first by a New Zealander.
The book describes more
than 365 species, subspecies, varieties and hybrids of Hebe
and related species. It is illustrated with 135 colour photographs
and 17 line drawings.
In Chapter 1, Hebes in
New Zealand, Lawrie sets the scene. He points out the premier place
that hebes have in their native land, both in the gardens and countryside.
They even have their own society. Hebe is the largest genus
of flowering plants in New Zealand, with more than 100 species -
although various parts have been separated into Parahebe,
Chionohebe, and controversially into Heliohebe and
Leonohebe. The author shows how New Zealand's climate plays
its part - subtropical in the far north through to temperate in
the far south. It is surrounded by oceans which give a much more
even climate than experienced in the UK. In the section 'Where Hebes
are Found' Lawrie points out that hebes are found in all environments
throughout their native land, from seaside to mountainside. But
in very few places will there be a great variety of hebes, as most
hebes are local in their distribution. Indeed he states that '.it
is amazing how far one may travel in New Zealand without observing
a single hebe in the wild'.
Lawrie looks at each
habitat in turn describing its characteristic hebes. Thus Hebe
elliptica is found growing on the coasts of the South Island.
The large river valleys within mountain ranges have Hebe odora
and Hebe subalpina. In alpine grasslands the whipcord hebes
grow; while Hebe vernicosa occurs in the forests of the Nelson
area, and the grey-leaved Hebe pinguifolia is an inhabitant
of the dry mountain ranges to the north-east of the South Island.
Next he describes the
features of Hebe: the variation in size, the arrangement
of leaves, the prominent terminal leaf bud, and the presence or
absence of a gap (sinus) at the base of the leaf bud. Some drawings
to illustrate these points would have been useful. The related genera
of Heliohebe, ×Heohebe, Parahebe and Chionohebe
are described. This is followed by sections on the discovery of
hebes, early breeding of hebes, and finally the classification of
Hebe into ten informal groups.
Chapter 2 is entitled
'Hebes Around the World'. Here a number of Hebe Society members
give their assessment of hebe growing in the UK, North America,
Europe and Australia. Tony Hayter looks at hebe growing in the UK,
where hardiness, the Hebe Society and the plethora of new hebe cultivars
are mentioned. Neil Bell and Tom Sauceda look at hebes in North
America. Hebes can only be grown in gardens in California or the
Pacific Northwest, and do particularly well near the coast. Elsewhere
it is either too hot in summer or too cold in winter, or both; there
hebes are being sold as pot plants. Claudio Cervelli describes hebe
production and use in a wide variety of climates in Europe. Melanie
Kinsey says that hebes have been grown in Australia for many years,
especially in Victoria and New South Wales. They are much used for
landscaping and warrant their own section in many nurseries.
Chapter 3 deals with
the cultivation of hebes. You would regard growing hebes in their
native land as easy, but Lawrie points out the traps for the unwary.
Hebes bought as a tight ball, if left to their own devices, become
leggy, so they do need regular pruning and deadheading. Hardiness
is rarely an issue in New Zealand, as its winters are relatively
mild, compared to the UK. They appreciate good drainage and a top-dressing
of mulch, and do well in either sun or semi-shade. Hebes grown in
containers need good drainage, feeding with a slow-release fertiliser,
and a yearly potting on, or root pruning. Those grown in open ground
require much less attention, but watering might be necessary in
dry periods. Any fertiliser should be applied to the surface then
worked into the soil, so that it is available to the plant.
Chapter 4 covers the
propagation of hebes. They grow readily from seed, but as hebes
so easily crosspollinate the result may not match expectations.
Semi-hardwood cuttings are best taken in early autumn, preferably
from the sides of the plant. Lawrie then discusses the rooting of
whipcord hebes and growing hebes as standards.
Chapter 5 deals with
growing hebes in different situations in the garden. He considers
how the habitat that a hebe grows in shapes its character, e.g.,
Hebe odora grows well in wet soils, but has to withstand
high moisture loss due to strong winds, and Hebe pinguifolia
has waxy glaucous leaves to cope with dry conditions. The author
shows which hebes are suitable for hedges, rock gardens, ground
cover, dry places, shady places, coastal areas, and damp conditions.
Chapter 6 is about the
pests and other problems, and how to deal with them. Fortunately
hebes don't have too many problems; the key is to have healthy hebes.
Insect pests include aphids, spittlebugs, leaf-rolling caterpillars
and the Hebe gallery fly - the last one occurs just in New Zealand.
Next come the fungal diseases, downy mildew, fusarium wilt, phytophthora
root rot, and septoria leaf spot - Lawrie outlines the methods of
controlling these. Lastly he lists the physical problems that can
affect hebes; drought, frost damage, poor flowering, wind scorch
and rabbits etc. Drought is more of a problem for plants in containers,
so vigilance is needed. To prevent frost damage mulching and a protective
cloth help. Lastly, poor flowering is a more complex problem with
a number of possible causes.
Chapter 7 is the largest
and deals with Hebe species and associated cultivars. The
species are arranged alphabetically, which makes finding a hebe
very easy. However this arrangement does not group related species,
which makes comparisons more difficult. The description of each
hebe starts with its particular characteristics, and its relationship
to other hebes, and may include notes on the various forms available,
the plant's history, and its habitat. Each entry concludes with
a detailed description and notes on its distribution. One that caught
my eye was Hebe 'Swamp', the temporary (or tag) name for
a species that grows in the Hikurangi Swamp near Whangarei, in the
North Island. It has affinities with Hebe bishopiana and
Hebe stricta, with mauve flowers.
Chapter 8 covers Hebe
hybrids and cultivars not directly assigned to a species, and each
is briefly described. Most of these plants will be known to regular
readers of Hebe News, but a number will not, as the book
includes cultivars from New Zealand and Australia. For instance
Hebe 'Flame' has an intriguing name; it's similar to Hebe
Chapter 9 covers the
Hebe relatives: Heliohebe (the paniculate hebes, Heliohebe
hulkeana, H. lavaudiana, H. raoulii and H.
pentasepala, and their hybrids Heliohebe 'Fairfieldii'
and H. 'Hagley Park'), ×Heohebe (crosses between Hebe
and Heliohebe), Parahebe and Chionohebe. The
book concludes with a glossary and index.
This book is a worthwhile
addition to those already published on hebes. The range of topics
covered is wide. The text is clear and comprehensive, the photographs
good and useful. I will be sure to keep it within easy reach.
Tony Hayter for his permission to reproduce a version of his review
originally published in Hebe News, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 3.
book was also reviewed in The Plantsman (published by the
RHS), Vol. 3, Part 3, in September 2006.
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