Hebe News – Article 1


‘All About Plants’, a specialist show funded and run by the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley was graced by the presence of the Hebe Society on the weekend of June 20th and 21st. Apart from myself, I had help from Gary Jones of Plumpton College setting up the display on the Friday and Gary Firth, who expertly manned the stand on both Saturday and Sunday. A very big thank you to both of them, as I could not have done the show without them. Thanks also to my two small children who spent the whole time handing out leaflets and telling complete strangers all about hebes! I had to pay them at the end of the show for a job well done.

This was the first time the event had been held and the idea was to make it a shop window for all the specialist societies who attended. There was a good mix of societies ranging from alpines to ferns with even a Delphinium Society show to brighten up the marquee. The Sweet Pea Society filled the marquee with scent.

Our display was at the far end of the marquee, sandwiched between peonies and rhododendrons, which I was also helping with. The 2 metre by 1 metre stand was too small really and the walkways too narrow, but these things will be addressed by the organisers for future years.

My plants did not have as much flower as I would have liked. If the show had been held a week later we would have put on a stunning display, but made do with foliage and texture instead. Luckily there was no judging at the event and I was pleased when the plants passed a quite rigorous phytosanitary inspection. The only flowers fully open were on ‘Hebe‘ ‘Headfortii’, ‘Hebe ‘‘Blush Wand’ and ‘Hebe elliptica‘, but with forty five other plants on display showing different plant sizes, shapes and forms we did OK.

‘Hebe ochracea‘ always generates conversation, especially as we were opposite the Conifer Society and we could point out that ours was a hebe and not a cone bearing fir tree!

There was much interest in the plants and the society and I am hopeful that several people will join.

We were bombarded with the usual questions on pruning, soil types, shy flowering and diseases, with every enquirer being diverted to our website for more information. One person thought we had disbanded about fifteen years ago!

Wisley was looking good at the time, very well maintained as one would expect, but there was a distinct lack of hebes, the only ones being ‘Hebe hulkeana‘ and a lovely purple leaved ‘Hebe ‘‘Midnight Skies’ in a border outside the library, and ‘Hebe ‘‘Mrs Winder’ either side of a gate entering the plant centre. The Director General and Gardens Manager are going to look into this and the department head for the rockery, alpine house and scree garden has promised to plant some hebes in his department. He will let me know which plants he is after so I can find them for him.

The whole weekend was enjoyable but with one sad note. Due to a lack of advertising prior to the event, visitor numbers were poor. The ticketed gala evening only attracted 70 people when we were told to expect 500. A similar weekend event last year attracted 8,500. If we attracted 1,500 it might be an over-estimate. The marquee was tucked away at the end of the garden and away from the public so that even with three full car parks, people did not venture down to us.

The organisers are hoping to move the event to the main lawn next year, but understandably do not want to ruin their grass. This was a free event for us so we should be grateful to the Royal Horticultural Society for running it. If just one person joins us as a result, I will deem it to be a success and think about it for another year.

Steve Harding

Registered Charity No 801398