Spring Great Plants this Month

Hebe hulkeana – New Zealand lilac

Louse Sims

I’m sure I’m not the only gardener who tries to stick to the rule of three: a plant that you so desperately want to grow in your own garden but that after three unsuccessful attempts, you have to admit defeat. Well, this hebe is one of those plants that I really had to have, and thankfully on my third go, it worked!

Before the last shot however, I did as much research as I could to try and find the best position. I read that (like most hebes) it is a New Zealand native, and that its natural home is on the north-eastern side of the South Island, growing on cliffs and rocky headlands. Sun is a requirement, and I had the idea that growing it at the foot of a small tree but facing south might just do the trick: it also happens to be where the flower bed meets the drive, so it has a poor and stony soil which is therefore very well drained.  

Furthermore, it’s on a very windy corner of the house so that’s the nearest to a coastal position in our inland Sussex garden! So far, all this seems to be working. I had also read, that after a winter such as the one we’ve just had, so many late frosts would put paid to any chance of flowers but thankfully not, it’s flowering its socks off.

H. hulkeana is a small, open, evergreen shrub, of remarkable beauty and distinction, (said the famous botanist WJ Bean) with dark green, glossy, toothed leaves. The common name of New Zealand lilac is a good one; the flowers are a pale lilac colour and held in generous open sprays and it doesn’t look a lot like other hebes.

NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 inc P & P and is for sale in our online shop here.

More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Hebe hulkeana – New Zealand lilac”

I love Hebe hulkeana – you can also grow it from seed as it is a species – it was given to me by a couple in their 90s who had gardened all their life and I have managed to keep it in memory of them by remembering to do some cuttings each year, just in case. I have never actually grown it from seed as the cuttings are not difficult and I know if I grew it from seed that germinated in their hundreds I might just end up with a few too many!

Hi Jennie – a plant that was given to you by old friends is always special isn’t it? So, I can see that I shall have to have a go at growing it from seed this year. Happy gardening! Louise

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