Zone envy. We've all experienced it. I live in zone 5 and I see something that's only hardy to zone 6. Yes, if I could only live in zone 6 . . . what a garden I could have! And you - you live in zone 6. If only you could live in zone 7 . . . what a garden you could have!
The truth is, many of us who suffer from this gardening malady try to be something we're not. Come spring, we'll see new offerings and some old ones again, and we'll rationalize and fantasize and otherwise figure out a way to buy them, plant them and make them work. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Are there things we can do to give them their best chance of survival?
I tried to think of something I grow that's marginal to our zone that has done well and the truth is, I've taken the safe route so far. As I've mentioned before, I planted Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata 'Fantasy') last year and depending on which source you read, it is hardy to zone 5 or 6, making it a marginally hardy plant for my area. It still has decent green foliage right now, so it appears to be doing fine.
In the last few years, I've gotten to know my garden better and have learned the personalities of each area. The spot in the middle of Max's Garden, where the willow tree grows tends to be lower and wetter, so I've sited plants that like these conditions there. The trellis area in the shade of two large oak trees also tends to be rather damp, so it contains plants that like moist shade.
On the south side of the family room is a small bed that most definitely is a warmer microclimate, meaning temperatures there are different than are typical for our area. It is protected on three sides - two of them by the house and the third by some shrubs. It's open only to the east. Anytime I have planted things there - bulbs for example - they are the first to wake up in the spring. So I think I can safely say this area is zone 6.
This year, I want to try a few zone 6 plants in this small bed. There are some ground orchids that I think might do well, such as this one:
Photo of Calanthe discolor from Plant Delights.