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March's Conservation Feature

Hebe 'Nantyderry'

This delightful hebe was brought back into the Conservation Scheme in 2011 at the suggestion of the Shropshire Group because it has a connection with an HPS member who identified it in her garden. It was introduced by Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers, who as a member of the original HPS Conservation Sub-committee initially suggested it as a conservation plant in the early 1980s.

Fully hardy, it appears to be tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. The main flowering time is June-July with spikes of pale lavender-blue, turning white as they age, but this is a plant with a long season of interest as the neat evergreen foliage is dark and glossy with bronze-purple tints on dark (almost black) stems particularly during the winter months, reaching a peak with the new foliage in early spring.

Hebe 'Nantyderry' was found as a chance seedling in the late 1970s in the garden of the same name in Monmouthshire belonging to plantswoman Rose Clay. Rose was born in the Vale of Usk, but moved to Sussex with her parents at the end of World War 2 and lived there until she married and moved back to Monmouthshire with her husband. Horses were her passion, but with a new garden her interest and knowledge in gardening grew and Nantyderry became well-known, featuring in magazines and on TV. Rose became a presenter on a gardening programme for BBC Wales and was a member of the National Garden Scheme Council, opening her garden for over 20 years. She was a member of the Herbaceous Plant Committee of the RHS, judging at many shows including Chelsea, and a member of the International Dendrology Society.

Hebe 'Nantyderry' will grow to a height of about 75cm although it has a rather lax habit and can become leggy if the position is too shady, if there is overcrowding from surrounding planting or just with age after 5 or 6 years. If this happens it can be pruned back quite hard in spring to restore its shape, at the same time providing plenty of material for cuttings which will root quite easily in free-draining compost. Lower leggy stems will also root by layering; make a small scrape on the bark of the stem with a sharp knife, then peg the stem into a slight depression in the soil with the wound in contact with the soil surface. The layer should have rooted 12 months later and can then be detached from the parent plant, potted up or moved to a new position in the garden. It works well amongst low-growing herbaceous perennials and bulbs in the border, providing colour and structure in the winter months.

Jan Vaughan

Posted by Jan Vaughan

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