Some years ago I decided to change one of my shrub beds and looking round The Place for Plants at East Bergholt in Essex I came across a Hoheria which was unknown to me; at that time I did not realise that their willingness to bloom in July or August, when flowering shrubs - other than hydrangeas or hibiscus - are very thin on the ground, would be ample reason to give them space in the bed. Whats more, the five-petalled flowers are scented, the bark interesting, the foliage impressive and the habit graceful. These shrubs will also thrive in most soils - even chalk - and, since winters are generally milder now, hardiness is less of an issue. All in all, they deserve to be more widely grown.
One interesting feature of the hoheria (the name is a corruption of the Maori word houhere) is that the foliage on young plants is smaller and more lobed than when they mature. These are known as juvenile leaves and are mainly replaced by versions without lobes, although they still have toothed margins. When young, the habit of hoherias tends to be upright, the branches inclining towards the horizontal only as they age. They are also known as lacebarks or ribbonwoods.
The most commonly planted variety is H. sexstylosa, an evergreen from the west coastal regions of New Zealand, which derives its name from the fact that each flower has six pink styles (female parts). However, the variety you are most likely to come across these days is the more compact and free-flowering H.s. 'Stardust'. It was named by Roy Lancaster, who was one of the first to see its potential. It makes a broadly columnar shape and flowers from a young age, with generous clusters of star-shaped white flowers, each up to 2.5cm across. The leaves are narrow and glossy - Roy described them as looking "as if theyve been lacquered". Where it is happy, 'Stardust' will set seed and the fruits have prominent wings. It is generally considered to be hardier than H. sexstylosa.
Another worthwhile hoheria is H. 'Glory of Amlwch', a hybrid that originated in a garden in Amlwch, Anglesey. It makes a large bush, perhaps 2.4m by 1.8m, is semi-evergreen and, in July, produces large flowers 3cm across. It certainly deserves to be more widely planted.
First published in the Essex Group Newsletter, Snowdrop Time 2009
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 26.
© Copyright for this article: Harry Brickwood
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2010. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.