Growing up on Galveston Bay with crape myrtle then moving to Georgia almost 30 years ago, and enjoying crape myrtle here, led me to believe I knew crape myrtle. Visiting Galveston Bay last week I was stunned at the magnificent beauty of their Muskogee crape myrtle. The pale lavender blooms consistently engulfed the trees regardless of brutal heat, humidity and blasting winds rolling in from west Texas every few weeks.
Why stunned? I've never seen a Muskogee' not a single one, as beautiful in Georgia. Georgia shows off with Natchez crape myrtle. Their white blooms a confection of dazzling clouds. How do Natchez look in Texas? Not so good.
Why is this important? If you've recently moved to Georgia from Texas and think you'll nurture a Muskogee to Texas standards you'll be disappointed. If I moved to Texas and planted my beloved Natchez its beauty would never approach a Georgia display. And it wouldn't be my fault. Yes, knowing when something isn't your fault is extremely important.
Most beginning gardeners think it's something they've done or not done making a plant unhappy. That does happen, but it is also true plants will grow in many states while extravagantly thriving in only a few of them. Because a plant does well in another state, and our same zone, doesn't mean it will do equally well here. This is rare, but it does happen. More often, we try to grow plants a bit outside of their happiest zones.
Tulips bloom here, but don't expect them to come back next year and don't expect every bulb planted to survive from fall planting to first bloom. It doesn't matter if you are experienced growing them in the North. This is the South and it's much too hot for too long for tulip bulbs. It's a scenario inviting to fungus, insects and small animals.
Lilacs must be the Holy Grail of scented shrubs. Many of the millions of people living in the metro Atlanta area are from a climate allowing lilacs - as well as peonies - to thrive. These are two plants that will bloom here but not thrive. Seeing pictures of beautiful lilacs and peonies tells me I must tour the areas they thrive during bloom season at least once before I die. But I won't try to grow them here.
Encore azaleas have confounded many gardeners, beginning and experienced. Their marketing pictures are seductive. Unfortunately, I've yet to see one in a garden passionately thriving. Be wary of new plant introductions. Sometimes the marketing is true and sometimes it's simply marketing.
Plants are particular to place regardless of people's desire. We have human nature. Plants have Mother Nature. Always listen to the plants. They pay no heed to human nature.
Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.agardenview.biz.