Dependable Veronicas

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Hebe 'Heebe Jeebie'Hebe 'Heebe Jeebie'Of all the evergreen summer flowering shrubs Veronicas must be one of the most dependable and easy to grow. Their unusual flowers can bloom for months on end, and their attractive leaves make them good all year round foliage plants. Read all about growing them successfully below.

These beautiful garden shrubs are named after the Greek goddess Hèbè, the daughter of Hera and Zeus. This maiden was the cupbearer of the gods and the goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving them sweet nectar and ambrosia, and captivating them with her beauty. The Latin word speciose means ‘handsome’ and is most aptly given as these lovely shrubs will add both colour and texture to the garden. The shrubs are still commonly called “Veronicas” as they were once included in this family of plants.

Hebe is a genus of plants native to New Zealand, Rapa in French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands, and South America. It includes about 90 species and is the largest plant genus in New Zealand, where it occurs in diverse habitats ranging from coastal conditions to mountain peaks. As a result of their popularity with gardeners, extensive hybridisation has been done on the species, resulting in many distinctive garden plants which will thrive in various climatic conditions, and today they are available from tiny miniatures only 30cm high to varieties which will grow Hebe 'Red'Hebe 'Red'1.5m tall. This diversity makes them available for gardeners in most Provinces of South Africa, and a 'must have' for gardens large or small.

Veronicas are neat, compact, low maintenance, and water-wise, and by selecting the right varieties, a Veronica can be found for almost any situation and season. The small flowers are grouped together in dense spikes, varying in size and blooming time according to the variety. The flower colours include varied shades of purple, lilac, blue, red, pink or white, and although most garden varieties will flower throughout spring summer and autumn, the macrocarpa types flower during winter.

Hebes are also sought after for their fabulous leaves which vary greatly in size and colour, providing year round interest and texture to the garden, and they come in exciting colours and variegations, including silver and green, creamy white, pink, grey, violet, burgundy, bronze and red.

Hebe speciosa ‘Wiri Joy’ and Hebe diosmifolia are subspecies of the original plants, and with hybridisation, have resulted in many wonderful garden specimens. Hebe ‘Wiri Joy’ is an evergreen shrub with shiny, dark green leaves and pink flowers. It has a very long flowering period that starts in spring, and continues through summer and into autumn. Hebe diosmifolia is a tidy little plant with dark green leaves and white flowers, starting in late spring and continuing well into summer.

Hebe 'Wiri Spears'Hebe 'Wiri Spears'In the Garden:

Veronicas suit all types of garden styles, from contemporary to cottage and wild gardens, and are known to attract butterflies to the garden. They are stylish container plants, so even the smallest garden can sport a few.

Every great annual flower garden relies on a backbone of evergreen flowering shrubs, and Veronicas fit the bill perfectly with their attractive leaves and form which give a sense of stability to the overall effect, and their blooms complimenting annual floral displays.

The dwarf varieties are ideal in containers and make wonderful edging plants, groundcovers or rockery plants. The taller varieties are a mainstay of the mixed flower and shrub border, and they are also often used as formal or informal hedging plants around herb and vegetable gardens. For formal hedges, try to clip them when they have finished flowering, or you may sacrifice the flowers.

Because Veronicas are also available as standard plants, they can be used in even the smallest of gardens where they will provide vertical interest.

Hebe 'Snowdrift'Hebe 'Snowdrift'Cultivation/Propagation:

Veronica's are not very fussy plants and are perfect for gardeners of all abilities. They are ideal for growing in areas where the summers are hot and dry, and they are wind, frost, and sea spray tolerant. However, they do not enjoy very humid subtropical regions, and in extremely hot and dry regions they will appreciate shade during the hottest time of the day, and will require regular watering to look at their best. Also, bear in mind that certain varieties are more frost hardy than others, so visit your local garden centre to find those which best suit your climate.

The variegated-leafed Hebe's and those with red flowers seem to be amongst those most affected by cold winds and wintery weather. To avoid winter freeze damage and to harden off the new growth before winter, do not fertilise in late summer with fertilisers that are high in nitrogen, rather give them a last feeding with an organic 3:1:5 and slowly start reducing the amount of water you give them, and in winter water judiciously during cold spells.

Veronicas enjoy full sun but can be planted in partly shaded areas, making them perfect for those parts of the garden which receive both shade and sun. In too much shade they will not flower well. They will adapt to most well-drained garden soils but thrive in fertile but gritty soils. They do not do well in heavy clay soils which do not drain well. Adding compost when planting will improve drainage and ensure a happy plant with frequent blooms.

For best results mulch the roots in spring with compost Veronicas enjoy full sun but can be planted in partly shaded areas, making them perfect for those parts of the garden which receive both shade and sun. In too much shade they will not flower well. They will adapt to most well-drained garden soils but thrive in fertile but gritty soils. They do not do well in heavy clay soils which do not drain well. Adding compost when planting will improve drainage and ensure a happy plant with frequent blooms. Do not apply the mulch or fertiliser up close to the stems. Although they are drought tolerant, for best results in the garden water the moderately during dry summer spells, but allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

Veronicas flower on new wood so trim them back lightly after flowering to keep them neat and compact. In very cold winter regions prune the summer flowering varieties in spring when all danger of frost is over. In summer, only pinch out the dead flowers, because the new flowers appear at the tips of the new growth and if pruned too hard, the plants will stop flowering until the following year.

Hebe 'Icing Sugar'Hebe 'Icing Sugar'Propagation:

Veronicas are very easy to grow from semi hard wood cuttings or heel cuttings taken in summer. Dip the cut end in hormone rooting powder and plant in a mixture of compost and coarse washed river sand (available from garden centres)

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If Hebe is grown correctly it is not commonly afflicted by any serious pests or diseases. Downy mildew shows as patches of grey fluff on the lower leaf surfaces, and may be a problem in humid regions or in damp areas with poor air circulation, so avoid planting in these conditions. Septoria leaf spot mottles the leaves with brown spots. These can be controlled with a copper based fungicide.

Toxicity:

We could not find this plant on any poisonous plant lists for pets or humans, but it is always advisable to supervise small children and babies in the garden. If your pet does have any adverse effects after chewing on any plant take it to a veterinarian immediately.