With 1500mm/60″ of reliable rain falling across almost 200 days each year, I don’t really need drought-hardy plants, but when establishing a garden on sandy soil, I certainly don’t want to be dragging the hose or watering can 60m/200′ up a 20° hill just to water plants in dry weather.
There were a couple of Hebes here when I bought the house, so it’s evident that they can thrive on neglect and still look good. For this reason, I have included a few more around the garden.
This charming one is Hebe ‘Marie Antoinette’:
It starts as dark purple buds which open to a dark pink and then fade to white. Unlike many Hebes, this one will only get to about 80cm. It has an open habit, and benefits from pruning.
I actually cut Hebes back very hard in early spring to stop them from getting leggy.
Like this one below…already here when I bought the house, it was 2m x 2m (6′ x 6′), quite sparse and I only saw a few flowers for the whole year. I cut it back close to the ground in late spring. As you can see, it is starting to recover well:
But when the summer flowers are gone, these shrubs hold their own with bright, waxy foliage year round. Like this lovely little variegated compact shrub (around 80cm) which at the moment has pretty purple flowers.
The bees and butterflies love them.
Hebes are part of the Plantaginaceae family which includes Penstemons, Linarias and Veronicas (yes, these are now in the Plantain family!!!!) as well as the more staid member, Digitalis.
Hebes are a great addition to the mild-climate garden but do need protection from frosts below about -8°C/17°F if they are to thrive (USDA zones 7b – 10b).
This certainly makes them suited to much of UK/Europe and many coastal areas of the US. If in doubt about cold hardiness, the narrow-leaf varieties are almost always more frost tolerant than the large-leaf varieties.
These New Zealand natives aren’t fussy on soil type, are drought tolerant and many cultivars can even cope with continuous salt-spray in a coastal garden, where you often see them grown with Phormiums & Cordylines.
Given the right conditions, they are tough, undemanding shrubs that reward with pretty blooms in mid – late summer when many other shrubs are taking a siesta. They will often continue with a secondary flowering between mid autumn – early winter.
Hebes are easily propagated during warmer months from side shoots placed into gritty compost (striking within about 3 weeks; in my sandy soil, however, I just push cuttings straight into the ground in a shady spot!) – layering is also a really effective means of propagation as well.
Happy Gardening 🙂