Hebe or not Hebe?

Recent name  changes are confusing to gardeners. The lovely genus of Veronica changed to Hebe in  1929 and  so we have had plenty of time to get used to the name. I rather like it. Hebe was the Goddess of  Youth and cupbearer to the gods. She was said to be rather clumsy. She is generally depicted clasping a cup and  in rather dishevelled dress. I like the idea of a tipsy goddess staggering round the garden and I always think of her when I look at my hebes.  In the eighteenth- century ladies liked to be painted as Hebe. It was probably an excuse to show off their bosoms. A classical pose makes semi-nudity respectable.

Madame de Coumartin as Hebe. Nattier 1753

Madame de Coumartin as Hebe. Nattier 1753









Now though,  Hebe has been re classified as Veronica so I don’t know what the Hebe Society are doing about that. It must have messed up all their stationery.

To add to the confusion, my favourite Hebe/ Veronica is now neither of these things. It rejoices in the new name of Heliohebe hulkeana. So it is a Sun Hebe. Well at least this gives a good clue as to where to grow it. Apparently, in the wild this lovely plant is unique to New Zealand. It is quite difficult to get hold of. I coveted it in my friend’s garden for a long time and she eventually succumbed to my not so subtle hints and gave me a rooted cutting. It has sprays of the most delicate lavender colour. It needs some room because it likes  to sprawl about a bit. It will thrive if it is in a sheltered, sunny spot. I love it. It is a very classy Hebe, (sorry Heliohebe) indeed.

Heliohebe hulkeana

Heliohebe hulkeana

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46 Responses to Hebe or not Hebe?

  1. Christina says:

    As you say and we all discussed last year, the name changes are difficult to keep up with; at least with the internet pages can be updated quite quickly; pity the poor authors of books that become outdated! I can see why you coveted the hebe/veronica no Heliohebe! She is as beautiful as the painting.

  2. This is somewhat off topic, but I thought I remembered a photo of the Duchess of Devonshire as Hebe. When I looked for it on the internet, however, I found it was the Countess of Westmorland at a Fancy Dress Ball hosted by the Duchess in 1897. The image is quite unforgettable for the huge and menacing bird perched on her shoulder. The Library Time Machine has a number of photos from the Ball and it boggles the mind to think about the money spent on this frivolity, though I would have joined in given the chance. Here is the link to the group of photos: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/tag/duchess-of-devonshires-costume-ball/. Or you can find the single image by simply googling “Countess of Westmoreland as Hebe.”

    Your Heliohebe hulkeana is certainly far superior in grace and beauty, but lacking bird, I imagine the Countess was quite acceptable.

    • Chloris says:

      I just had a look; wonderful. I wonder why she thought a giant bird was appropriate for Hebe. Perhaps she was confusing her with someone else.

  3. I like the idea of a flower named for a tipsy, clumsy, blowsy kind of goddess.What’s with all these name changes, anyway?

  4. AnnetteM says:

    I have a Parahebe – I suppose that is something quite different again? Whatever it is called, it is a lovely plant as is your Helliohebe. I am rejoicing in my first Poppy out today – I hope they are never reclassified as I could never call them anything else!

    • Chloris says:

      That’s a point. I wonder where this leaves the Parahebe. I’ m not sure. How lovely to have a poppy out. But it’ s actually a Papaver. Poppy sounds much nicer though.

      • AnnetteM says:

        Oh yes it is isn’t it. No-one round here would know what I was talking about if I called it that! Still only one out, but loads of buds this year.

  5. Flighty says:

    I like hebes, but generally not name changes. xx

  6. Tina says:

    Darned taxonomists–always messing with gardeners.

  7. pbmgarden says:

    That’s quite a name for your lovely little plant. I’ve noticed people mentioning Hebes on garden blogs but never understood what they were. I think the garden centers around here were still using Veronica.

    • Chloris says:

      This little plant doesn’ t look like any other Hebe, it is very beautiful. Somebody left a comment calling it a Hulky Ana which doesn’ t suit it at all.

  8. gardenfancyblog says:

    Sigh, yet another tender shrub…. I’m glad you post about them, Chloris, or I would never know what they are. 🙂 -Beth

  9. croftgarden says:

    Danger taxonomists at work! I’m more than a little confused as I thought your Heliohebe was a Parahebe, but allegedly Heliohebe is a new genus which includes Parahebe, so I assume that Parahebe is now obsolete. Must be a Rumsfeldian known unknown!
    However, it is a very pretty plant and a worthy addition to your garden.

    • Chloris says:

      It is very confusing, but whatever it is called, it is such a pretty plant. It is much more refined than the usual Hebes, sorry Veronicas.

  10. So… Veronica is now Hebe, and Hebe is now Veronica (why don’t they just change “Hebe” to “Betty” — that would make things interesting…

    I have never heard of Heliohebe but it is very pretty. Let’s see, Hebe was a goddess and “helio” means sun, so mentally that suggests a sun goddess (even though the flowers are blue, LOL) but then the species name brings to mind a comic book character, sooo… ideally this name should be applied to an extremely large yellow-flowered sun-loving plant with an anger management problem. Got it. 😉

    • Chloris says:

      In theory, you are quite right, but your description doesn’ t fit this lovely plant at all. She is delicate and pretty and never gets angry.

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    A hebe by any other name… Shall we dispense with Latin and give our own names to pants? The one in your picture is lovely and will now be known as Alicia.

  12. Anna says:

    I’m thoroughly confused and perplexed by all these name changes but your heliohebe hulkeana is a most enchanting creature whatever her name is 🙂

  13. snowbird says:

    What a shame it couldn’t remain Hebe….I was laughing reading about the goddess….marvelous!
    Whatever it’s called, it’s beautiful!xxx

  14. mattb325 says:

    It’s a lovely, but very tender shrub. How does it cope with the frosts…even relatively light frosts killed one I had growing 😦
    I can’t believe that Hebe has been reclassified as Veronica. Goodness me!

  15. Alain says:

    To my ear, Hebe sounds more distinguished than Veronica (perhaps my opinion only results from looking at madame de Coumartin?) but either is much preferable to Heliohebe.

    • Chloris says:

      I quite agree, Veronica doesn’ t sound very distinguished. You can’ t imagine a goddess called Veronica. I don’ t think I can keep saying Heliohebe if people ask me what it is. It sounds as if I have a stutter

  16. Kris P says:

    I hadn’t heard about Hebe’s reclassification, although, after reading your post, I discovered articles on the subject dating back to 2011. Still, The Plant List shows that the accepted name of many hebe are as yet unresolved (or The Plant List is simply unable to keep up with the name changes). It makes my eyes cross, especially given the utter lack of data on hybrids of apparently uncertain parentage like my own favorite Hebe ‘Wiri Blush.’ I was amused to find that another hybrid commonly sold in California under the name Hebe ‘Veronica Lake’ (presumably after the 1940s film star) is apparently the offspring of hebe speciosa, which The Plant List shows is accepted as part of the Veronica genus, presumably making it Veronica ‘Veronica Lake.’

    • Chloris says:

      Veronica ‘ Veronica Lake’ that is the sort of tautology that makes a joke of these name changes. I’ m going to stick with Hebe, I prefer it.

  17. A very pretty plant. I understand your desire for it. (I think that hulky Ana is no name for it though)

    • Chloris says:

      Hulky Ana! I shall never be able to think of her as anything else now. And it really doesn’ t suit her, she is far too delicate and refined to be a Hulky Ana.

  18. Cathy says:

    I remember loving your hebe/’not hebe’/heliohebe in my murky past. I could never get away with planting it now. What a fascinating little tale to come out of a subject that’s very irritating and seems to be running out of control. The ‘splitters’ are definitely winning over the ‘lumpers’, sadly for the rest of us. Especially the ones like me with poor memories!

    • Chloris says:

      Why couldn’t t you grow it now? Are your with terms very cold? I suppose all these name changes keep us on our toes. Blogging helps because we can all remind each other.

      • Cathy says:

        Regularly down to -15 in winter, Chloris. I seem to remember that it doesn’t take too much winter chill? But I can enjoy yours! You are so right about blogging keeping me (us) up to date!

      • Chloris says:

        You understood I meant winter and not terms. This predictive writing drives me nuts. No, it isn’ t completely hardy although I have been lucky so far and my friend has had hers for years.

  19. Brian Skeys says:

    I also like the idea of a tipsy goddess wandering around the garden, what ever her name!

  20. Cathy says:

    Reading this post after everyone else I have been able to enjoy the comments and have a bit of a giggle – I was just thinking that at least I didn’t have any ‘hebes’ to fret about whether they were now veronicas or heliohebes, but then I remembered that do in fact have a single one, acquired on the Golfer’s insistence because it was called ‘Cathy’ (or maybe Kathy, which is definitely not the same thing) 😉

  21. Chloris says:

    So you have Veronica ‘ Kathy’. I don’ t know that one. I much prefer the name Hebe, I think I shall stick with it, it sounds prettier.

  22. Meriel Murdock, Co. Wicklow, Ireland says:

    Your discussion on H. hulkeana prompts me to take a few cuttings of mine to root & distribute to gardening friends living on the coast. Mine, which I have had for several years now is looking very poorly this year, I suspect the cold spring hasn’t helped. Neither has the fact that the deer have taken a likening & they are now frequenting an area where they previously didn’t venture. They love Hebes apart from the Grey ones, no matter that they are called Hebe or Heliohebe! So far they haven’t bothered with my Parahebes. On a good year it is a lovely plant & much remarked on by others.

  23. Debra says:

    Someday I would like to visit New Zealand. I imagine it as a kind of flower paradise. Like you, I have to like the idea of a tipsy garden goddess. =)

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