We had houseguests from Texas last week, and I was proud to show off our garden on a remarkable, rain-free day. Like me, they are gardeners. And, like me, they long for what they cannot have. They swooned over the perennials, lilacs and peonies — the things that do so well up here, even with little help from the gardener. They did not even notice my agaves.
Why is it that we gardeners can’t be happy with the plants that thrive in our own zone? Don’t we have enough challenges, what with diseases, pests and foul weather? Maybe it’s the possibility of triumph — even if it’s just once.
I’ve been a zone-pusher for a long time. My list of disappointments is long, especially when I’ve tried to cross too many zones. Whether overwintering in the ground or in the basement, I’ve failed with Japanese fiber bananas, “hardy” gardenias, blue lacecap hydrangeas, agapanthus, lotus and more. But, once in awhile, I get lucky.
This year I got dozens of blooms on a stewartia, a shrub that has flowers that kind of look like camellias. I’d already tried planting it twice (both long dead), but this time, I chose a different selection of Stewartia pseudocamellia that I bought from a grower in my area. He had been growing it experimentally, not sure if it would pass the hardiness test. After two winters on the south side of my house, it bloomed this year. Triumph! What’s more, the grower still has it on his plant list, so there could be a future for stewartia in Vermont’s Champlain Valley.
I’m also delighted to see that my potted crapemyrtle is going to bloom this year. Too bad my Texas friends have already gone home. They would have been impressed. Well, maybe not.