A CHANGE OF NAME

Landscape (UK) - - Our Landscape -

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.

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