A shrub up to 5 ft high; branches spreading, very stout even when young, glabrous, two-edged at first. Leaf-bud with a distinct sinus. Leaves 2 to 4 in. long, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. wide, obovate, rounded or bluntish at the apex, tapered at the base to a very short stalk, dark shining green, leathery, glabrous except that the midrib above and the margins near the base are minutely downy. Racemes produced in the uppermost leaf-axils, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. thick. Flowers dark reddish purple, 1⁄3 in. diameter. Bot. Mag., t. 4057.
Native of the North Island of New Zealand, where it was discovered in December 1833, by Richard Cunningham, at the south head of Hokianga Harbour. It occurs also in the South Island, but is very rare and confined to small areas, always on cliffs near the sea. The typical plant is rare in cultivation, but it is very striking in the great width of its round-ended or broadly tapered leaves. It has, however, by hybridisation with other species given birth to a very valuable series of evergreen flowering shrubs, in which its influence is seen in the purple, violet, or reddish flowers.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
† cv. ‘Variegata’ (‘Tricolor’). – Leaves in shades of grey-green with a cream edge, the younger ones flushed with red in winter. Probably a true H. speciosa and very tender (Souster, Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 87, p. 38 (1962); L. Metcalf, op. cit., p. 137).
Garden Hybrids (page 348)
† ‘Amy’. – Young leaves purplish. Flowers in late summer, deep purple, in racemes. A hybrid of H. speciosa, not reliably hardy.
† ‘Baby Marie’. – A dense, slow-growing shrublet to about 2 ft high. Flowers pale lilac in axillary and terminal branched racemes. Distributed commercially as ‘H. buxifolia nana’ and renamed by Graham Hutchins.
† ‘Blue Clouds’. – Flowers clear blue in racemes 2 to 3 in. long, opening in late summer and autumn. Leaves about 13⁄4 in. long, dark green, turning purplish in winter. Compact habit, to about 2 ft high. A seedling of ‘Mrs Winder’, raised by Graham Hutchins.
’Carl Teschner’. – It is probable that this is really the same as ‘Youngii’, a well-known clone of New Zealand gardens. The parentage H. elliptica × H. pimeloides is almost certain, as the cross was made artificially and produced one seedling virtually identical to ‘Youngii’ (L. Metcalfe, op. cit., pp. 140-41).
’Carnea’. – It was remarked on page 350 that ‘Great Orme’ is similar to ‘Carnea’. Other hybrids in this group are ‘Cranleighensis’ and ‘Watson’s Pink’.
† ‘County Park’. – A spreading shrub probably less than 1 ft high, about 2 ft wide, with grey-green leaves turning mauvish in winter and bearing spikes of violet flowers around midsummer. A seedling of H. pimeloides var. glauco-caerulea, raised by Graham Hutchins. ‘Wingletye’, of the same origin, is similar but less tall and with leaves that remain green in winter.
† ‘C.P. Raffill’. – See below under ‘Spender’s Seedling’.
† ‘Hartii’. – A prostrate shrub with oblanceolate leaves up to 5⁄8 in. long, arranged more or less in one plane. Flowers in May with violet-coloured lobes fading to white, in racemes about 11⁄2 in. long. Of New Zealand garden origin. One parent is thought to be H. diosmifolia.
† ‘Inspiration’. – A spreading shrub to about 2 ft high, twice that in width. Leaves oblong-oblanceolate, glossy, rather thick and up to 11⁄2 in. long and 1⁄2 in. wide. Inflorescences 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, crowded near the tops of the branchlets, purple, opening in summer. A hybrid between H. speciosa and H. diosmifolia, raised in New Zealand, where it is widely grown. It has been introduced to Britain, but is of doubtful hardiness.
† ‘James Platt’. – A shrub to about 2 ft high, with dark stems and small, concave, red-edged leaves. Flowers in early summer, bluish, in branched racemes. A hybrid of H. pimeloides.
† ‘McEwanii’. – This is now sometimes sold as ‘H. colensoi aff.’
’Midsummer Beauty’. – Other hybrids in the same style, in addition to those mentioned, are ‘Gran’s Favourite’, of more compact habit, with light purple flowers (County Park Nursery); and ‘Killiney’, tall-growing, also with light purple flowers (Messrs Watson, Killiney, Eire).
’Marjorie’. – This hebe will attain 4 ft in height and more in width. It is one of the hardiest.
† ‘Purple Princess’. – This is very similar to ‘Amy’.
† ‘Snow Wreath’. – This is a renaming of the probably hybrid clone sold as H. salicifolia ‘Variegata’. It is a small shrub with a broad margin of creamy white to its leaves, but is rarely seen in good condition as the foliage tends to burn in the sun.
’Spender’s Seedling’. – On page 351 mention was made of a plant that has been widely distributed under this name; for this see further under H. parviflora var. angustifolia in this supplement. There can be no doubt that the true ‘Spender’s Seedling’ is the very different hebe grown under this name at Kew, and also described in the main work (in this description the length of the leaves was misprinted or mistyped as 3 in.; it should be 2 in.). It was originally distributed as H. salicifolia ‘Spender’s Seedling’, and does in fact bear some resemblance to that species. What is probably the same clone as the true ‘Spender’s Seedling’ has been recently distributed as ‘C. P. Raffill’.
’Tricolor’. – See this supplement under H. speciosa.