Plant of the moment: Hebe

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The hebes are a vigorous extended family. There are loads of them, but they can be hard to spot, because some are disguised as jasmine, some are disguised as conifers and some are disguised as heathers. Some have little purple or pink flowers, some have white Magnolia-like flowers, some have Buddleia-type purple spikes. Some grow to roughly 4ins tall; others reach 8ft high. The whipcord Hebes have small, scale-like leaves, some of their cousins have glossy green and yellow ovals, and others have long lance-shaped greenery. This can make life confusing: it is fairly safe to guess that pretty much any dwarf-to-small-to-medium-to-quite- large, green or variegated, leafy and/or flowering bush might well be a Hebe. The more boring varieties are well-represented in public parks and most gardens have one or two lurking somewhere, as they are easy to grow.

PARAPHERNALIA

Outdoor lighting

Since the garden is now to be considered an extra room that just happens not to have a roof, it has to be accessible night as well as day. This means installing lighting, if a lot of stumbling and cursing in the dark is to be avoided.

A simple bulb attached to the back wall of the house is all very well, but uplighting, downlighting, backlighting, spotlighting, floodlighting and underwater pond lighting options can transform a humble plot. (It may also involve tearing up the lawn and relaying the patio, if there isn't already an electricity supply outside.) In general, however, the Blackpool illuminations look is not one to recreate in the back garden. The neighbours will laugh at attempts to highlight each individual prize rose with its own lime-tinted spot. Many lamps are not things of beauty. In fact, a lot are downright ugly, particularly the illuminated bollard types which are sometimes used to pick out a path (conceal in a convenient bush), though lanterns and globes can look very pretty. It's hard to beat real candles, however, for atmosphere.

Coloured lighting is especially naff (although yellow bulbs rather than white ones seem to be less attractive to flying insects). Passive infra- red lamps which alarm burglars by lighting automatically, will alarm everyone if they are positioned so every passer-by triggers them from the road. And fitting up a lighting system that shines directly into your neighbour's baby's bedroom will make you no friends.

Cast iron lanterns from a selection by Roger Brown, New House Farm, Thickett Lane, Penistone, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S30 6EE, 01226 762088.

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