Monday, 21 November 2016

Hebe and Veronica

Oh dear! Life can be so complicated.

At this time of the year we do not expect bright floral colours to enliven our gardens but fortunately we have Hebes to come to the rescue. Or do we? When these versatile, varied and valuable shrubs were found in New Zealand it didn't take botanists long to decide that they were species of Veronica. Their shrubby habit was atypical for the genus, but Veronicas they surely were. But then, somewhere in the 1960's if memory is correct, doubts began to creep in and, with little dissent, they were re-christened Hebe, after the Greek Goddess of Youth. Nurserymen changed the labels and it was a case of  'God's in his heaven; all's right with the world', as Browning put it.
Veronicas (Hebes) are still flowering freely in our garden.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 20 November, 2016

But then rumbling grew in the ranks.  In the late 1990's biologists Wagstaff and Garnock-Jones, utilising new DNA techniques, established that Hebes were Veronicas after all, but it must be said that horticulturalists are proving very reluctant to re-label their offerings. One can't really blame them.
Further along Christchurch Road, Daventry, other Veronicas are blooming.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 20 November, 2016

So, are we now all sorted? Sadly no. One thing we were all happy and confident about was that Veronicas were members of the Foxglove family, Scrophulariaceae. As it turns out the genus has now been transferred to the hitherto minor Plantaginaceae family, so now the Veronicas are kin to the humble plantains of our lawns and roadsides.

But, whatever they're called, they are, as stated, brightening our gardens. Oddly enough the Veronica currently flowering in our front garden is the variety 'Midsummer Beauty'. What's in a name?

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