A CHANGE OF NAME
The name hebe is derived from the Greek goddess Hebe, the daughter of Jupiter and Hera, and the goddess of youth. When hebes were first named by botanists in Europe, their obvious floral resemblance to the native speedwells led to them being grouped in the genus Veronica, though they were distinctly different with their woody stems. This continued until 1929, when two botanists, Cockayne and Allen, decided that the differences were enough to justify renaming them hebes, a genus of their own. And there they have remained, until now. Classification of plants is not something done by botanists with magnifying glasses any more, but is based on DNA analysis. Because of this, in 2001, two botanists decided that hebes should be included in the genus Veronica once again. So Hebe speciosa should be Veronica speciosa, but it will be some time before this is generally accepted and the name appears on garden centre labels. and the large-leaved hebes, such as H. speciosa, with three leaves. The shoot is prepared by cutting just below a pair of leaves, removing the lower pair. More pairs are taken if the cutting is of a small-leaved hebe. The bare piece of stem which is to be pushed in the compost should be about 1-2in (3-5cm) long. Any flower buds are removed, then the stem is pushed into cuttings compost. A mix of equal parts multipurpose compost and perlite is ideal. The cuttings are watered, misting the foliage, and placed in a propagator in a shady place. They are kept moist and misted daily with water. Most root very quickly, showing signs of growth within six weeks. The new plants are transferred into pots in autumn if growing in a greenhouse, or spring if kept outside over winter. They are then planted out in spring or early summer so they have the full growing season to establish before winter. Tender hebes such as the speciosa hybrids grow so quickly that it is worth taking cuttings every summer to grow new plants. These can replace those that will be lost in winter. In this way, young hebes can be planted into borders in April each year, where they will grow vigorously. They will flower throughout summer, reaching 2ft 6in (75cm) high and across by autumn. This is how they were treated in Victorian times, when they were at the height of their popularity, bedded out in summer. It takes a bit of effort, but the results will prove to be spectacular.