An evergreen, small, freely branching shrub 3 to 6 in. high, forming tufts up to 1 ft across; shoots decumbent below, upper ones erect, hollowed on four sides and thus making them sharply tetragonous. Leaves very densely-set, 1⁄12 to 1⁄10 in. wide, narrowly spathulate, ciliate, imbricated in four vertical rows, each pair joining at the base to clasp the stem. Flowers white, 1⁄8 to 1⁄6 in. wide, borne in short two- to four-flowered spikes near the tips of the branches, stalks downy. Seed-vessels laterally compressed.
Native of the South Island of New Zealand at altitudes of 3,000 to 6,000 ft and quite hardy. This distinct and interesting dwarf shrub belongs to a small group of rock-dwelling species which have the whipcord foliage of H. cupressoides and its allies but differ in their laterally compressed seed-capsules and functionally unisexual flowers. For this group see Fl. N.Z., Vol. 1 (1961), pp. 944-946. H. tetrasticha is figured in Philipson and Hearn, Rock Garden Plants, plate 52.
Of the many hybrids of garden origin available in commerce, only a selection can be treated below. The hybrids of H. speciosa are particularly valuable for seaside gardens, not only because they enjoy the greater mildness and dampness of the climatic conditions there, but because many of them are not injured even by salt spray. See also H. × franciscana, which being a validly named botanical group is treated in alphabetical order among the species.
‘Alicia Amherst’. – A robust shrub 3 to 4 ft high. Leaves elliptic or elliptic-ovate, mostly acuminately narrowed at the apex to a blunt point, 3 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, darkish green, leathery. Flowers very large, deep violet, crowded in racemes 3 in. or more long; corolla-tube broad, not much longer than the calyx and about equal in length to the lobes. A handsome hebe, near to H. speciosa but hardier, flowering from August. It is often grown as ‘Veitchii’, but this cultivar, raised by Messrs Veitch of Exeter and shown by them in 1911, is not the same as the plant described above, judging from the specimen in the Kew Herbarium.
‘Andersonii’ – Flowers bluish purple fading to white, in racemes 4 to 5 in. long. Corolla-tube about 1⁄8 in. wide at the mouth, the lobes acute, slightly longer than the tube. Calyx about half as long as the corolla-tube or slightly longer, with ovate, acute lobes. Leaves elliptic or oblanceolate, obtuse at the apex, 3 to 4 in. long, of softly leathery texture. A hybrid of H. speciosa, raised by Isaac Anderson-Henry shortly before 1849. The other parent, said to be H. salicifolia, was in fact a plant named Veronica lindleyana, which had been raised from seeds sent to Scotland from New Zealand in 1843. There must be some doubt whether this plant could have been the true H. salicifolia as defined in Allan’s Flora of New Zealand.
‘Andersonii’ was once commonly used for greenhouse decoration in early winter. It is now uncommon, but can easily be obtained by propagating reversion shoots from its beautiful variegated sport ‘Andersonii Variegata’, with leaves margined ivory-white, the centre grey-green splashed with the normal darker green. This is tender and commoner as a bedding-plant than as a mature bush. It arose before 1856.
‘Autumn Glory’. – An erect, sparsely branched shrub about 2 ft high, with dark stems. Leaves broad-elliptic to obovatc, 1 to 11⁄4 in. long, edged with red when young, glossy green with a slight glaucous tinge. Flowers deep purplish blue, in broad, dense, often compound racemes 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 in. long; tube white. It flowers more or less continuously from midsummer onwards and is fairly hardy in a well-drained not too rich soil. It is a seedling of ‘Tobarcorranensis’ and was raised at Smith’s Daisy Hill Nursery at Newry, Co. Down, around 1900. The parent, which is perhaps no longer in cultivation, occurred as a self-sown seedling in the garden of Gen. Bland at White Abbey, Tobarcorran, near Belfast (Gard. Chron., Vol. 92, p. 22). Mr Smith believed that the parentage of Gen. Bland’s plant was H. vernicosa × H. pimeleoides, both of which grew at White Abbey. But this parentage, which is the one suggested for ‘Balfouriana’, does not seem quite right for ‘Tobarcorranensis’, judging from herbarium specimens, and is certainly not right for ‘Autumn Glory’. But there can be little doubt that ‘Autumn Glory’ derives partly from H. pimeleoides, the influence of which is shown in the habit, the red-edged leaves, the large bracts and the downy ovary and style. The other parent could be H. × franciscana.
‘Balfouriana’. – This hybrid, of uncertain parentage, was raised in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden from New Zealand seeds and is figured in Bot. Mag., t. 7556 (1897). It is a shrub about 3 ft high with erect purplish stems. Leaves 1⁄3 to 3⁄4 in. long, 1⁄6 to 1⁄4 in. wide, oval to obovate, purple-edged when young. Flowers pale purplish blue, produced about midsummer in racemes 2 to 3 in. long; bracts as long as pedicels or slightly longer; calyx-lobes acute, about as long as corolla-tube. This hybrid was at first grown as H. vernicosa and is considered by Cockayne and Allan to be a hybrid between that species and H. pimeleoides.
It should be added that the name Veronica balfouriana, used by Hooker for this hybrid, properly belongs to a cross between two true veronicas, raised by Isaac Anderson-Henry and named in 1867. The parentage was given by him as V. saxatalis crossed with V. fruticulosa.
‘Bowles’s Hybrid’. – Leaves pale green, slightly glossy, narrow-elliptic or oblong-elliptic, up to 1 in. long. Inflorescences usually compound, made up of two to five racemes, 3 to 4 in. long, including main peduncle. Flowers widely spaced; corolla-tube rather broad, the lobes pale lavender-purple, shorter than the tube.
A charming dwarf shrub, usually under 2 ft high, producing its graceful panicles continuously from July until early winter. It was not raised by Bowles, and is very probably the plant mentioned by him in My Garden in Summer (p. 140), which came from the Warham Rectory. It is also known as H. parviflora ‘Bowles’s Variety’, as H. diosmifolia ‘Bowles’s Variety’ or even as “H. diosmifolia”. It might be a hybrid between these two species, but there are other possibilities.
The hebe known as ‘Eversley Seedling’ seems to be in every respect the same as ‘Bowles’s Hybrid’, but differences in habit, hardiness, etc., might emerge if the two were grown together over a period of years.
‘Carl Teschner’. – A procumbent shrub building up to 9 in. or more high in the centre and 3 ft, perhaps more, across. Stems very dark, almost black. Leaves dark green, elliptic, acute about 3⁄8 in. long. Flowers violet, borne in July in racemes 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long including peduncle c. 1⁄2 in. long. A.M. 1964. Said to be H. elliptica × pimeleoides. Moderately hardy, with strikingly dark stems and richly coloured flowers.
‘Carnea’. – Leaves oblong-elliptic, acute at the apex, 11⁄4 m. or slightly more long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. wide, glossy above, with red-tinged margins. Flowers white overlaid with pink, fading to pure white, in racemes 3 to 5 in. long. Corolla-tube much longer than the calyx. Calyx-lobes with a broad membranous margin which is coloured bright red. A very beautiful hebe, which received an Award of Merit in 1925. Judging from the detailed description he gave, it is very similar to a plant which J.B. Armstrong named Veronica carnea in 1881, but the racemes are longer and there are other differences. At that time the plant was common in New Zealand gardens and said to have been found originally in the wild, though it has never been rediscovered there.
‘E. A. Bowles’. See under ‘Mrs Winder’.
‘Edinensis’. – Leaves densely set on the shoot, loosely appressed at the base, then arching outwards, narrowly oblong-ovate, up to 1⁄4 in. long, glossy above, keeled beneath. Internodes with two lines of white wool. A hybrid of dwarf habit, raised shortly before 1910 by R. Lindsay of Edinburgh from a plant grown by him under the name V. hectori, but a specimen from the actual plant, preserved in the Kew Herbarium, shows that it was not that species and perhaps itself a hybrid. The pollen-parent was said by Lindsay to be V. pimeleoides but, as he himself noted, its influence is not apparent. ‘Cassinioides’, of wild origin, is similar but more robust and upright, and does not have woolly internodes. It is believed to be H. lycopodioides × H. buxifolia.
‘Ettrick Shepherd’. – Flowers magenta-purple at first, fading to pure white, slender-stalked, densely packed in racemes 3 to 4 in. long. Leaves oblanceolate, mat-green, purple beneath when young. July. The flowers fade so abruptly and are so closely set that the inflorescence is distinctly bi-coloured. A very striking hebe, cultivated at Kew and available in commerce. Ultimate height probably 3 to 4 ft.
‘Gauntlettii’. – Flowers salmon-pink with a purplish tube, in racemes 6 in. long. Leaves 23⁄4 to 31⁄4 in. long. August-October. Tender, near to H. speciosa.
‘Great Orme’. – Similar to ‘Carnea’ in habit, foliage and botanical characters, but with pinker flowers.
‘Headfortii’. See under H. macrocarpa.
‘Highdownensis’. – Leaves fairly glossy, bright green, oblong, up to 23⁄4 in. long. Flowers blue-violet with white tubes, about 3⁄16 in. wide at the mouth, in racemes 5 in. long. An erect shrub up to 6 ft high, flowering in July and again in autumn (and well into the winter if the weather is mild).
‘La Seduisante’. – Flowers deep magenta-purple, in racemes about 4 in. long, borne July to October. Leaves elliptic, purple beneath when young, 2 to 3 in. long. Near to H. speciosa. A.M. 1897. Tender.
‘Lindsayi’. – Leaves broadly oblong-elliptic, about 3⁄4 in. long, rounded to almost truncate at the apex, medium green and slightly concave above, with a paler margin. Stems erect, purplish brown. Flowers pale pink, in short dense racemes. A hybrid between H. amplexicaulis and (probably) H. pimeleoides, raised by R. Lindsay late in the 19th century. It has quite pretty shell-like foliage and was used by the famous gardener E. A. Bowles as a foil to choice ferns.
‘Margery Fish’. – A compact shrub 2 to 3 ft high. Leaves oblong-elliptic to oblong-lanceolate, 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, rather wavy, margins and often the midrib beneath tinged with red; youngest leaves tufted and bronzy in winter. Flowers violet-blue with white tubes borne in summer and often in autumn in dense racemes 3 to 4 in. long. A delightful hebe of dense habit, fairly hardy. ‘Primley Gem’ raised at the Paignton Zoo, is similar.
‘Marjorie’. – A low spreading shrub 2 to 3 ft high, more across. Leaves resembling those of the Andersonii group but shorter, usually toothed on young plants. Flowers of a clear light blue, in short racemes. Said to be very hardy.
‘McEwanii’. – A dwarf erect shrub with glaucous, acute leaves 5⁄8 to 7⁄16 in. long, 1⁄8 to 3⁄16 in. wide. Flowers slightly tinged with blue, in short racemes. Probably a hybrid between H. colensoi and H. pimeleoides.
‘Midsummer Beauty’. – A hybrid of H. salicifolia with elliptic or oblong, acuminate leaves about 4 in. long, strongly tinged with reddish purple beneath when young. Flowers borne from July until early winter in fairly dense racemes about 5 in. long; corollas lavender-purple, the tube only slightly paler than the lobes. It is moderately hardy, very floriferous, growing to about 4 ft in height and more in width. It was put into commerce by Messrs Cheal and received an Award of Merit in 1960. There are many other hybrids similar to this, deriving their hardiness from H. salicifolia and the colouring of their flowers from some hybrid of H. speciosa. Two known to be very hardy are the old ‘Mauvena’, raised before 1911, and the newer ‘Miss E. Fittall’. These are described in the article by J. Souster in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 87 (1962), pp. 37-8.
‘Mrs Winder’. – A shrub of fairly dense habit, 3 to 4 ft high and more in width. Stems dark reddish brown, glabrous. Leaves narrowly oblong-elliptic, 1 to 11⁄4 in. long, c. 1⁄4 in. wide, transversely wrinkled at first, red-rimmed, midrib prominent beneath, tinged with red at the base. Racemes 21⁄2 to 3 in. long including peduncle 3⁄4 in. long; bracts lanceolate or narrow-elliptic, acute, equalling or longer than the pedicels. Tube of corolla white, fairly slender; corolla-lobes violet, obtuse, shorter than the tube. This pretty and free-flowering variety seems to be the commonest in catalogues of a group of hybrids with dark stems, acute leaves usually margined with red when young and flowers with white tubes and violet lobes. ‘E. A. Bowles’ and ‘Warleyensis’ (of Messrs Toynbee), bear a very close resemblance to each other and both are similar to ‘Mrs Winder’, but it is impossible to make valid comparisons unless the plants are grown side by side. Another hybrid in this group is ‘Waikiki’, which is well distinguished by its low, spreading habit.
‘Simon Delaux’. – Flowers in racemes about 5 in. long, the lobes crimson, concave, obtuse, the tube and anthers purplish. Leaves ovate, purple-edged, about 2 in. long. Tender. A hybrid of H. speciosa.
‘Spender’s Seedling’. – Flowers white, slender-stalked, in narrow racemes up to 6 in. long; peduncle short. Calyx deeply segmented into long, acute lobes, equalling the corolla-tube. Leaves thin, narrowly elliptic, up to 3 in. long, 5⁄16 in. wide. A beautiful hybrid, near to H. gracillima, of low spreading habit, bearing its racemes in July in great profusion from the upper leaf-axils. This description is drawn up from a plant in the Hebe collection at Kew. A commercial plant under the name ‘Spender’s Seedling’ is different. Its white flowers have very slender tubes more than twice as long as the calyx and their pedicels are always longer than the bracts (shorter than the bracts or equalling them in the Kew plant). The leaves are narrowly lanceolate, tapered evenly to an acute falcate tip and up to about 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide. This plant appears to be tall-growing, and judging from identical plants seen (without label) in a Sussex garden, it should attain 6 ft and be perfectly hardy. It is possibly a hybrid between H. parviflora var. angustifolia and H. stricta.
‘Tricolor’. – leaves elliptic, 2 to 3 in. long, centre pale grey-green, darker along the veins, margins yellowish white, the whole blade flushed with purple when young. flowers magenta-purple, in racemes longer than the leaves.
‘Veitchii’. See ‘Alicia Amherst’.
‘Viceroy’. – Flowers pale blue, short stalked, densely arranged in racemes about 3 in. long. Leaves elliptic or slightly obovate, about 13⁄4 in. long, 3⁄4 in. wide, three-veined at base, pinnately veined towards apex. Hardy. June-July. Raised by Messrs Burkwood and Skipwith, and of interest as the result of a deliberate cross between H. salicifolia and ‘Autumn Glory’.
‘Waikiki’. See under ‘Mrs Winder’.
‘White Gem’. – This hybrid is usually listed as a variety of H. brachysiphon, differing in its earlier flowering and dwarfer habit. It does not belong to that species, from which it differs in a number of characters, notably its downy style and ovary. It is possibly a hybrid between H. brachysiphon and H. pinguifolia. It is hardy, very floriferous and makes a useful weed-smotherer if massed. The flowering time is early June. A similar, perhaps identical hebe was once grown under the name ”’Veronica traversii praecox”.