Hebe Blue Gem

Scientific name: Hebe x franciscana (Eastw.) Souster cv. Blue Gem

Author: Alice Eastwood (1859-1953), John Souster (working in 1956)

Common name: Hebe Blue Gem

Family: Scrophulariaceae



Hebe Blue Gem   


Below the Residence Garden, on the same level as the Terrace water feature, is the sunny, well-drained site of Hebe x franciscana cultivar Blue Gem. Planted in 1982 these three mature specimens now form a single hedge.

This plant is an example of Northern Hemisphere fascination with plants from southern latitudes and the useful horticultural plants that can result from hybridisation. The parents, Hebe speciosa and Hebe elliptica are both found naturally in New Zealand with the latter also inhabiting southern South America and the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

Plant material collected during Captain James Cook’s 18th century Pacific voyages was grown-on in England. Various hybrids were raised and tracking the likely horticultural and taxonomic path to our present ‘Blue Gem’ cultivar makes interesting reading in Douglas Chalk’s Hebes & Parahebes.

Whatever the confusion surrounding its origins, the result is an easily propagated, salt-tolerant shrub with tidy foliage that produces a constant display of fragrant violet-blue flowers fading almost to white. Once established Hebe ‘Blue Gem’ is reasonably drought tolerant and provides a dense cover, conserving soil moisture, while providing an important habitat for ‘small brown birds’. Seeds don’t seem to be a problem but take care, please, when disposing of garden waste from this plant as 'ease of propagation' also applies to small trimmings discarded while still alive. None of us wish to see these later as weeds!