Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pushing the Zone Limits

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:

Hardy Calanthe Orchid
(Calanthe discolor)

If you could grow something hardy to just one zone warmer than you actually are, what would it be?

Photo of Calanthe discolor from Plant Delights.


Anonymous said...

mmm, Gaura. So pretty. I'm a fiver like you and I'm gonna give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Zone 8b, and I usually have cooler-zone envy rather than warmer. I'd like to be able to grow plants that just melt in our climate, like lilacs, tulips, maples, etc.

However, if I could grow a Zone 9 plant, I'd try a bottlebrush tree or a jacaranda tree. They are so gorgeous in bloom, but they do not like freezes.

Victoria Williams said...

Trachelospermum 'Tricolor' - Confederate Jasmine is what I'm yearning after.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Ahhh yes, the smell of Jasmine. I would love that. I can almost smell it now.

joey said...

Love the color combo & stones in your border, kylee. It works ... they look very happy ... good eye ;)

Unknown said...

I really really really really really want to grow a pomegranate tree.

Kylee Baumle said...

plantingoaks ~ Oh, for sure you can plant Gaura! I have it and it goes NUTS. The more I pruned it back, the more it branched out and bloomed. I absolutely love this plant. It's native to our area, too, and while walking behind our house near the creek, I passed this rather tall plant that looked vaguely familiar. It was a native Gaura! Go get yourself some Gaura this year!

Pam ~ Oh, I always forget that you warmer climate gardeners can't grow just everything. I guess we're like the curly-haired people who wish for straight hair and vice versa, aren't we? ;-)

Kim & Victoria ~ Oh yeah......mmmmmmmmm!

Lisa ~ See comment above. :-)

Joey ~ Thank you! I didn't grow the coleus there this summer. I had caladiums there instead. Now I kind of think I might do coleus again, except where will I put all the caladiums then?

Kim ~ If anyone could get it to grow where you live, it would be you! Is that something that you could grow in a container? Yeah, I know, that's not like what we're talking about here, but is it something that would do well that way?

Nancy J. Bond said...

Oh my, that orchid is ezquisite! I'm not sure what I'd grow in a zone warmer than 5b -- I'd have to investigate what's hardy in a slightly warmer zone, I guess. Good question!

CrisB said...

Kylee, I want to thanks your visit in my blog. Visit everytime, you will be very welcome. It's great to know persons from other sides of the planet.
In my blog there is a translator online, it is very bad, but gives you an idea of what is wrote.

In my zone 9 I would like to be able to grow plants from the tropics. We are never satisfied with what we have, isn't it?

Ki said...

The hardy Calanthe orchid looks really wonderful. Since I live in zone 6 I may try growing it.

I've struggle to keep the Camellias both sasanqua and japonica alive. I don't know if it's wise to push the zone where a plant can grow because the plant suffers so. The camellia are probably really a zone 7 plant though the two I have were sold in local nurseries here. I also have an Arizona cypress which is a zone 7 tree but it seems to be doing nicely with some shelter. But we had a very mild winter this year so who knows with global warming pushing the zones further north?

IBOY said...

O.K., I'll bite... what the heck is the plant at the top of your post with foliage that looks sort of like a crown imperial, but strange spotted flowers??

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