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The Cultivation of New Zealand Plants

Chapter VI. — Veronicas and their Cultivation

Chapter VI.
Veronicas and their Cultivation.

The shrubby veronicas are a specially remarkable feature of our flora. They are likewise garden plants of the highest value by reason of their many distinct forms, wealth of blossom, and ease of cultivation and of propagation. They vary from a forest-tree with a distinct trunk (V. gigantea), see fig. 3, to a tiny herb (V. canescens), by way of shrubs large and small, erect or prostrate, green-leaved, or glaucous, or those which mimic the cypress.

As wild plants they grow on the sea-coast, in forests and shrubland, on dry or wet rocks, in swamps and bogs, on barren moorland, in the tussock-grasslands, and ascend to the snow-line, forming mossy cushions on the great screes of the Southern Alps, or the scoria of the volcanoes. In the garden there is no place, page 63except the most shady, where one or other of the species will not thrive. The smaller whipcord, and prostrate glaucous veronicas, are admirable for the alpine-garden, while the taller will adorn border, or shrubbery, and some make excellent hedges (see fig. 4). Their propagation is simple: all strike rapidly from cuttings when placed in the open in slight shade; seed germinates well. Cuttings, if taken from branchlets, which have flowered, may bloom the following year. Such small plants can be used in the alpine-garden and removed when too large. Nearly all the species bear severe trimming, and if becoming leggy it is necessary.

More than 100 species are recognized by botanists, and there are also many wild hybrids. Thus, there is intense variation, so that the classification of Veronica is an extremely difficult matter, and their recognition in the field, or in gardens, far from easy.

At the present time our veronicas are more prized than ever before, owing largely to their intrinsic value, and the increasing desire for native plants; but, in some degree, to the influence of the great collection brought together at Weatherstones, Otago, by Messrs. Hart and Darton.

A certain number of hybrids have been raised, especially in the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh. Much more could be done in this regard, and it seems reasonable to expect that, some day the crimson of V. speciosa, the lovely blue of V. Benthami, and the lavender sprays of V. Hulkeana may be associated with the ball-like, the cupressoid, or the creeping glaucous forms.

Here, the name "Veronica" is still used, but the time is not far distant when, for the shrubby section it will be replaced by the more correct name, "Hebe," for there are important distinctions between the above page 64and Veronica proper. Hebe, thus limited, is a subantarctic genus with its headquarters, and the bulk of its army, in New Zealand, but with isolated, small outposts in South-eastern Australia, Tasmania, Fuegia, and the Falklands. Nevertheless those species allied to V. Lyallii will still be veronicas, while the moss-like alpine herbs will receive again their original name, "Pygmaea."

Species Suitable for Cultivation.

Group 1.—Small trees or tall shrubs; lvs. usually more or less lanceolate; fls. in long racemes; coastal or lowland, except V. salicifolia, which ascends to 3,500 ft. Cult., border, shrubbery, steep banks, waste ground.

V. speciosa (hh.) is most handsome, with large dark-crimson fls., Sp. to A.; lvs. 2 to 3 in. long, darkgreen, glossy; there are showy garden hybrids between this and V. salicifolia, e.g., V. Andersonii and its variegated var. V. Dieffenbachii, (h.), 3 ft, is striking with its far-extending horizontal branches; lvs. linear-oblong, pale green; fls. lilac, S. Hab., cliffs near coast, Chathams; there are cultivated forms differing in height and spread. V. Barkeri, (h.), erect, is closely allied; all in gardens have descended by cuttings from, the original plant, which has never been found wild. V. Dorrien-Smithii (h.), also of the Chathams, smaller and more slender, consists of several distinct forms. V. Cookiana (h.) is farspreading; lvs., 1½ in long, very broad, green; racemes long, curved, dense. V. macroura (h.), more erect, has similar racemes; lvs. paler, narrower. V. salicifolia (vh.) is a group of related plants distinguished by erect habit, willow-like lvs. and long, slender racemes of white or lilac fragrant fls.; var. page 65Atkinsonii, excellent, can be established from seed on dry clay banks and blooms right into winter. V. gigantea (h.), forest, Chathams, 40 ft. (see fig. 3), has young lvs. deeply toothed, and their margins and purple young stems strongly hairy. V. pubescens (hh.) has young shoots, leaf-margins, midribs, and inflorescence densely hairy; 6 ft. high. V. Bollonsii (hh.), of Poor Knights' Islands, 5 ft. is capital; lvs. obovate-oblong, acute dark-green, glossy; fls. S., A., W. V. macrocarpa (h.), 8 ft, beautiful, has large, white fls.; lvs. thick, narrow. V. latisepala (h.) is similar but fls. deep violet; excellent.

Group 2.—Small trees or tall shrubs with much narrower lvs. than in group 1; racemes usually shorter, more slender; lowland or coastal. Cult., as for group 1.

V. angustifolia (vh.), 6 ft., has linear lvs. up to 6 in. long; racemes slightly longer than lvs. V. Simmonsii (h.) is a wild hybrid between this and V. salicifolia var. Atkinsonii. V. gracillima (h.), perhaps a cross with V. salicifolia var. communis, is somewhat similar. V. parviflora (h.) is much like V. angustifolia but taller, denser, and lvs. shorter.

Group 3.—Shrubs with lvs. hardly more than 1 in. long; racemes branched, short. Cult., as before.

  • (a) Coastal or lowland species—V. diosmaefolia, (h.), 15 ft., is very beautiful; blooms Sp.; lvs. short dark-green, acute, semi-erect; corymbs of pale-lilac fls. V. insularis (hh.), Three Kings Islands, of spreading habit, is much smaller; lvs. larger.
  • (b) Species peculiar to the high mountains, or extending thereto—V. Menziesii (vh.), 3 to 6 ft., dense; lvs. acute; fls. white or lilac, S. V. Colensoi (vh.) is similar but lvs. glaucous, V. rupicola (vh.) 2 ft., rock-plant, is of open habit; lvs. flat, up to 1 in. page 66long, glaucous; racemes 3-branched. V. laevis (vh.), Volcanic Plateau, 5 ft., dense rounded, has brightgreen lvs. more or less obovate; racemes branched or or not; fls. lilac or white; some forms hardly distinguishable from V. monticola.

Group 4.—Dense shrubs, rarely exceeding 5 ft.; racemes longer than the short lvs.

  • (a) Coastal—V. elliptica (vh.), occasionally a small tree, has lvs. elliptic-oblong, pale-green; fls. large, luscious-scented, blue quickly fading to white, S.; there are several distinct forms, one having lvs. 2 in. or more long. V. Lewisii (vh.), with large, lilac fls., A., is probably a cross with V. salicifolia var. communis; all in cultivation are descendants by cuttings from one individual. V. axnabilis (vh.) is possibly a wild hybrid of same parentage, so, too, with the beautiful V. divergens. V. chathamica (h.), embraces a group of trailing shrubs with short, fleshy, pale-green, elliptic lvs., and stumpy, longstalked racemes; many distinct forms are wild, or in cultivation; one of the latter with fls. bright bluishlilac, being probably of garden origin.
  • (b) High-mountain dwellers, only a few descending to sea-level; lvs. generally close-set.—V. leiophylla (vh.), has lvs. up to 1¼ in. long, linearoblong, often obtuse, smooth rather pale, with pale midribs; racemes, 2 to 3 in. long; there are wild hybrids with V. salicifolia var. communis, e.g., V. Kirkii. V. Matthewsii (vh.), distinct in its open spreading habit, has elliptic-oblong lvs. ¾ to 1 in long, and long, stout, large-flowered racemes; all in cultivation are descendants by cuttings from the original plant. V. Traversii (vh.) is ball-shaped; lvs. slightly yellowish-green, acute; fls. fairly large, abundant, white or lilac, S., A., forms come close to V. monticola., page 67or if racemes branched, to V. laevis. V. glaucophylla (vh.) is a glaucous leaved V. Traversii, but there are many forms. V. Darwiniana (vh.) is similar, but lvs. larger. V. subalpina (vh.), 6 ft. or less, has rather pale green, shining, lanceolate lvs., ¾ to 1 in. long; racemes, short; fls. white, Sp., S.; there is in cultivation a striking form with particularly large lvs. V. monticola (vh.) a mixture of many distinct plants with lvs. of different shapes and size, has racemes much shorter than has V. Traversii. V. obovata (vh.) is one of the "monticola" series. V. vernicosa (vh.) is a series distinguished by the low, spreading form, small shining green obovate lvs., often arranged in 2 rows, and short, dense racemes. Yar. canterburiensis (vh.) is semi-prostrate; stems rooting, racemes very short; more pleasing is the taller var. multiflora (probably all from one plant) with numerous, longer, tapering racemes. V. Cockayniana (vh.), 4 ft., has lvs. more or less wide-oblong, short. semi-erect, glaucous beneath, short racemes and fairly large fls. V. Willcoxii (vh.) is somewhat similar; lvs. narrow-obovate, ¾ in. long, somewhat glaucous beneath. V. rigidula (vh.), 6 in. to 2 ft., erect, has the branches, stout, scarred; lvs., small, acute, very thick, keeled, glaucous beneath; racemes dense, short. Cult., alpine-garden.

Group 5.—Fls. in spikes (racemose in V. decumbens and V. Biggarii), lvs. close-set but rarely overlapping; only V. buxifolia and V. pimeleoides descend to the lowlands.

  • (a) Erect, fairly tall, lvs. green.—V. buxifolia (vh.) consists of many forms, all characterized by large, leaf-like bracts at the base of the fls., and very close-set, sometimes almost overlapping, small, hard, glossy, dark-green, keeled lvs., with short distinct page 68stalks; var. odora (vh.) is ball-like; var. prostrata (vh.) is prostrate and rooting; another var. (unnamed) is erect and sparingly-branched—indeed there is no end of forms. Hab., usually in wet ground to 5,000 ft. V. anomala (vh.) resembles the above, but is distinct in its brownish colour; all in cultivation are from the original wild plant.
  • (b) Lvs. glaucous (except V. decumbens), wide-spreading (occasionally almost overlapping); generally of more or less prostrate habit; all extremely hardy. Cult., alpine-garden even where driest; front of sunny border, dry banks.—V. decumbens has prostrate, rooting stems; lvs. green, small, red-edged; racemes short; fls. white, Sp. V. Biggarii is excellent; stems prostrate, rather stiff, leafy; lvs. small, ovate to oblong-ovate, glaucous; racemes dense; fls. small, white, S. V. pinguifolia is a name for many distinct plants, usually prostrate or semi-prostrate with stout scarred, black branches, and thick, open, or overlapping lvs., often red-edged, varying from almost white to faintly glaucous; some are most distinct from one another and of great garden value. V. carnosula, a badly-understood species, is distinguished only by its glabrous capsule; it may not be in cultivation, but many forms of V. pinguifolia masquerade under the name. V. albicans is one of a number of tall plants, found in N.W. Nelson, closely related to V. carnosula, with rather large lvs. V. Buchanani, another mixture, has smaller lvs. than V. pinguifolia; several of its forms are distinct and charming. V. amplexicaulis is almost prostrate; its rather large, broadly-ovate lvs. clasp the stout stems with their base; there is also a fine, open, more erect var., and another var. almost erect. The well-known page 69garden plant has come from one individual. V. Allanii (not yet described as a species) has its young stems, margin and back of leaf densely hairy, and upper surface slightly so; related to V. amplexicaulis but erect. V. Gibbsii, 9 to 18 in. high, has the leaf-margins fringed with long, white hairs. V. pimeleoides of the most arid part of New Zealand, has more or less prostrate, straggling, very slender branches, very small, glaucous lvs., and spikes of blue fls., S.; var. minor is quite dwarf, and forms patches on stony ground where there is rather more rain, or even a fairly wet climate. V. glauco-caerulea, probably all from one plant, has whiter lvs. and fls. a different shade of blue.

Group 6.—The whipcord veronicas; adult lvs. reduced to scales, usually pressed close to the branch and completely hiding it; fls. in few-flowered heads near the tips of the branches.

  • (a) Dwarf species; all alpine or subalpine; suitable for choice position in the alpine-garden; vh.

    V. Gilliesiana is semi-prostrate; lvs. 1/6 to ⅓ in., linear, green, hairy on margin, spreading in apical part. Hab., N.W. Nelson to S.W. Otago. Cult., fairly moist spot, shade. V. tetrasticha has pale ovate-deltoid lvs. 1/14 to 1/10 in long. Hab., rock, screes, drier mountains. V. quadrifaria is similar both in form and habitat, but lvs. more minute and branches more slender. V. tumida makes small patches, lvs. tumid, minute, green. V. Poppelwellii, erect, has slender branches, square in cross-section; lvs. minute, green, triangular, marked with parellel veins; about 15 fls. to each head. V. annulata, one of the best of this section, has erect branchlets in 4 rows on the sides of the main stem giving a distinct effect; lvs. pale-green, minute, rounded at apex; a rock species. V. propinqua forms page 70low patches; lvs. green, tumid, obtuse; var. major is 2 ft. or more high, much-spreading. V. Laingii, of Stewart Island, has the shoots round in cross-section; lvs. ovate-deltoid, obtuse; fls. about 8 to a head, S.

  • (b) Erect species, generally 3 ft. high, or more, suitable for border, shrubbery, and dry banks (see fig. 17); all vh.—V. tetragona forms rounded, yellowish-green bushes; lvs. deltoid-ovate, obtuse; fls. white, S. Hab., Volcanic Plateau. V. Astoni is similar but smaller and lvs. tumid. Hab., Tararua Mountains. V. Armstrongii has the branches usually bent to one side of the stem; 6 ft., erect; lvs. acute; the cultivated shrub has descended by means of cuttings from one original plant. V. salicornioides, 3 ft, or more, spreading somewhat, has lvs. rounded at apex; there is more than one var. V. coarctata has a great resemblance to the last. V. Hectori, 3 ft. or much less; shoots very stout, round in cross-section, is the most whipcord-like of all veronicas; lvs. dark-green, obtuse. V. lycopoidioides is a mixture of several distinct forms, but all to be recognised by the 4-angled shoots and long point at apex of leaf; there are tall and dwarf vars. V. cupressoides (see figs, 1, 17), tall, with stout erect branches, is truly cypress-like with its dense dark-green shoots and minute scale-like lvs.; fls. abundant, purple, S. Hab., river-terrace scrub, between 2,000 and 3,000 ft.

Group 7.—Small, sprawling; fls. in dense, ovoid heads about 1 in long. Cult., alpine-garden; all vh.

V. Haastii, prostrate, has stems 6 in. long; lvs. spreading more or less, green, fleshy; fls. white, S.: var. macrocalyx has longer trailing branches and greener, more fleshy lvs. Hab., alpine screes, Westland. Cult., shady, well-drained soil. V. epacridea, rather like V. Haastii but lvs. rigid, spreading, re-page break
Photo. W. D. Reid Fig. 15. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) on bank of large pond in the Queenstown Gardens.

Photo. W. D. Reid
Fig. 15. New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) on bank of large pond in the Queenstown Gardens.

page break
Photo. W. D. Reid Fig. 16. Raoulia glabra on sunny rockery, Wellington Botanic Garden

Photo. W. D. Reid
Fig. 16. Raoulia glabra on sunny rockery, Wellington Botanic Garden

page 71curved
, red-edged. Hab., dry screes, rocks, 2,000-6,000 ft. V. Petriei, very distinct, is smaller, more erect; lvs. flat.

Group 8.—Very dwarf, lvs. minute, rigid, overlapping; fls. large solitary, terminal. Cult., alpine-garden, shaded by and close up to rock; vh.

V. dasyphylla is ideal for the alpine garden, making small, very low patches of densely leafy stems, bearing white fls. ½ in. diam, at their extremities. V. uniflora is similar, but smaller in every way.

Group 9.—Spreading, or erect, charming, small shrubs of open habit with rather stiff branches, coarsely toothed or crenate lvs. and most beautiful fls. All, except V. Benthami and V. macrantha, suitable for a sunny border.

V. macrantha (vh.), up to 3 ft., erect or spreading, has pale-green, thick, glossy, obovate-lanceolate to broadly oblong-ovate toothed lvs. ½ in. to 1 in. long, and racemes of charming large pure white fls. ¾ in. in diam.; the distinct var. brachyphylla (vh.), with shorter lvs. and smaller fls., grows naturally under drier conditions. V. Benthami (vh.) of Lord Auckland and Campbell Islands, erect, 2 ft., spreading, has thick, bright-green, more or less oblong lvs., ½ to 1½ in. long, and many-flowered racemes, up to 3 in. long of lovely bright blue fls., ½ in. diam. Cult., not easy; shelter with a rock; water in dry weather. Grows naturally in deep peat, always soaked with water. V. Hulkeana (h.) up to 4 ft., is justly famous; lvs. broad-ovate, dark green, shining, coarsely toothed, 1 to 2 in. long; panicles much-branched, up to 12 in. long, of numerous beautiful, small, pale-lilac fls., Sp. Hab., dry rock-faces along with Olearia insignis, Linum monogynum, Phormium Colensoi, and Senecio Monroi, to 2,500 ft.; wild plants differ in colour, and page 72one form has white fls.; var. fairfieldii (h.), smaller in all its parts, but panicles broader, is of unknown garden origin. V. Lavaudiana (h.), up to 2 ft., spreading, has broadly obovate crenate lvs., up to 1 in. long, margined red, and short, broad corymbs of white fls., rosy in the bud. Hab., shady rocks, Banks Peninsula. V. Raoulii (vh.), slender, straggling, 12 in. high at most, has crenate-toothed, oblong-spathulate lvs., ⅓ to ¾ in. long, very thick, yellowish, edged red and corymbs of small, very pretty, pinkish fls. Hab., dry rocks, Marlborough and Canterbury, to 3,000 ft. Cult., border, alpine-garden.

Group 10.—Moss-like, small cushion-plants with comparatively large, solitary fls., in abundance. (Pygmaea). Hab., broken rock and stable screes, 4,000 to 7,000 ft. Cult. difficult, shady place in alpine-garden amongst stones, e.g., small road-metal, or gravel; water freely in dry weather; keep free of liverworts, moss and weeds generally. Probably pot-culture in cold frame, or shade-house, would be the most satisfactory; all vh.

V. pulvinaris, V. Thomsoni, and V. ciliolata are all much alike; the first is the easiest to procure.

Group 11.—Small, prostrate, semi-woody plants (hardy shrubs), and herbs, with the capsule laterally compressed and notched above. (Veronica in its true sense).

  • (a) Mat-plants with prostrate, sometimes ascending, very slender rooting stems and fls. in erect, slender racemes. Cult., easy; excellent for alpine-garden, and some for front of border, but cannot endure prolonged period of drought. Prop., small rooted pieces, cuttings, seed.

    page 73

    V. catarractae (vh.) is the general name for a considerable number of distinct plants, many of which are excellent. The whole group needs exhaustive study before definite names can be given to the different distinct groups of individuals, for unfortunately the varietal names refer to mixtures and not to uniform groups of individuals; so for garden purposes, var. diffusa, var. lanceolata, etc., have no meaning. The lvs. are very long-lanceolate, at one end of the series, and very short-ovate, at the other end. The fls. are white to rose, or light purple, or there are various combinations. Any good garden var. may be kept "true" for an indefinite time by means of cuttings. Cult., alpine-garden, or border in rainy localities. V. Lyallii (vh.) comes close to some of the small forms of the above, but it is a well-defined species with very small ovate, orbicular or oblong-ovate lvs., up to ½ in. long, and racemes of beautiful fls. white with pink lines, on erect stems, 3 to 6 in. long. V. Bidwillii (vh.) is similar, but the lvs. are smaller, with only 1 to 2 teeth; fls. more strongly marked with pink. V. Hookeriana, of pumice soil at 4,000 to 6,000 ft. on the Volcanic Plateau, has fls. lilac with a purple ring in the throat of the corolla. V. spathulata (vh.) forms dense mats, or low soft cushions, on the loose scoria of the central volcanoes, covered in S. with white fls., about ¼ in. diam. Cult., alpine-garden, the best drained ground, with abundance of fine road-metal, or similar stones on the surface; must never be exposed to drought. Prop., rooted pieces, seed. V. Birleyi (vh.), related to the last, has stouter branches; fls., white, about ¾ in. diam. Hab., near Mt. Cook to mountains of Southland and W. Otago. Cult., alpine-garden, more or less shade. V. loganioides (vh.), a shrub, comes page 74here because of its capsule; it resembles a cross between one of the whipcord and one of the small-leaved veronicas, and is most likely a hybrid between V. Lyallii and one of the whipcords.

  • (b) Herbs.—V. Muelleri (vh.) is very low-growing; lvs. very small; fls. solitary, ⅓ in. diam. Cult., as for V. spathulata. V. Cheesemanii (vh.) is a small cushion-plant, up to 6 in. diam.; lvs. narrowobovate, up to ½ in. long, coarsely toothed; fls. small, solitary, white. Hab., stony débris where rainfall high, N.W. Nelson to Westland. Cult., etc., as for the last, V. canescens (vh.) forms grey, hairy matted patches which in S. are covered with largish, solitary, pale-blue fls. on very short stalks. Hab. ground where water has lain, to 3,000 ft. Cult., alpine-garden.