Careful breeding and selection have resulted in two beautiful gardenias that successfully embrace the Washington areas cold: Kleims Hardy and Chuck Hayes.
I planted a Kleims in spring 2004 in an exposed garden spot with no added protection; in January 2007, there were several bitterly cold days of 7 degrees F. All six of my gardenias look just fine and have not lost a leaf all winter.
On schedule, I expect that, by late April, these lovely bushes will be covered with buds. When they bloom in early May, their intoxicating fragrance will again overpower the perfume of my nearby blooming 22 year-old honeysuckle vine.
Winter hardy, both Kleims and Chuck Hayes gardenias are prized for their thick, glossy evergreen leaves as well as waxy white flowers. They like good sun, some dappled late afternoon shade, planting in rich acid soil with even moisture and good drainage, appreciate being mulched well, and fed with Hollytone fertilizer monthly (and iron, if the leaves become yellow) during the growing season. Both are hardy here (0 to 10 degrees F.).
Kleims Hardy has a profusion of 2-inch, pure single white star-shaped blossoms (which are more intensely fragrant than Chuck Hayes), opening in late April/early May. With a slow growth rate and compact shape, this dense evergreen shrubs mature height is 2 to 3 feet. Prune to shape after the first bloom cycle. This variety has great vigor and freeness to flower.
Chuck Hayes has semi-double (a more traditional look for gardenias) 2 1/2-inch ivory white flowers and blooms mid-June to the middle of August and then flowers sporadically in September and Octobers cooler weather. With its moderate growth rate, Chuck Hayes can reach more than 4 feet high at maturity. This is a woody shrub that can easily be pruned to a smaller size, if desired.
Local nurseries (Holly, Woods & Vines down Route 1, and Merrifield carry these lovely shrubs
Nancy Burns, owner of Garden Ideas, is a Certified Master Gardener; horticulture information director of District 2 National Capital Area Garden Clubs; Belle Haven Garden Club president; and secretary, National Capital Orchid Society. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-329-1899.