Hebe News – Article 2

Hebes in Spain

What happened in the culture of hebes this last winter, had never before happened to me during my entire career as a cultivator. Although it is true that we have had winters colder than that of this year, the result has never been so negative.

My hebes are grown in a field of approximately half a hectare, in the open air, near the city of Barcelona and close to the sea. We enjoy a moderate Mediterranean climate, which mostly in the winter never freezes, but every five or six years, the temperature falls below 0ºC and down to –2ºC. Statistically, every 10 or 15 years we have an exceptionally cold year with temperatures down to –5ºC. What has surprised me is that that this year was not very cold (–2ºC), but the damage that it produced in the plants has been greater than in the years when temperatures have fallen to –5ºC.

In order to understand what has happened, it is necessary to consider the antecedents. The major period of cold took place in week 3 of January, which was preceded by a few weeks of very moderate temperatures that provoked growth in the hebes and the appearance of new buds, as if it were March. The new leaves were tender and young buds began to develop in all varieties without exception. In fact, the cold arrived suddenly without time for these sprouts to become hardy and for their tissues to resist the gentle frost of January.

In the following weeks, growth stopped, but one could not discern the effects of frost. In week 7 I started to observe a general discoloration in the leaves and when the hebes started to shoot in the middle of March, the buds were burned, and the new leaves were deformed and bleached. Thus, the frost had affected the young buds to a depth of three layers of leaves and this had remained hidden for weeks. The appearance of the field was horrible and the resultant delay in sales and effects on commercial commitments were a problem.

In order to help with recovery of the affected plants, I added high doses of potassium using a product called Enraigard. In addition to containing the usual plant nutrients, this also supplies a range of biostimulants aimed at improving plant physiology and metabolism and the promotion of root growth, which gives improved resistance to low temperatures.

Deformities in both stems and flowers can still be seen. The frost has resulted in a natural ‘pinching-out’, giving rise to several lateral stems. Possibly the final product will be a more compact plant, but I do not believe that the better quality will compensate for the delay with meeting the clients’ commitments.

Josep Vendrell

Registered Charity No 801398