The Three Gardenias

Gardenias are lovely, evergreen shrubs, and aside from yearly trimming, they are generally carefree plants. When in bloom, they send out a lush fragrance that lingers far beyond their location.  

The west side of the house has harsh growing conditions compared to the rest of the yard. It is a valley created by adjacent houses and gets full sun for about 4 hours each day during summer. The problem is the heat reflected from our home. It gets very hot in that little man-made valley. So far, my attempts at growing plants there have been failures–likely, because I did not water enough. Two years ago, after letting the area lie fallow for a few seasons, I planted three gardenia bushes all the same height. I had not planned to put anything there—the first gardenia was a gift from a neighbor—and that doomed valley was the only available spot. 

A few weeks after planting

The first year, being aware of past failures, I watered all three diligently. The gifted plant thrived, and the other two spent the summer yellowing and dropping leaves. I assumed they would die, but I was wrong. Last year, in spring, they were sickly but alive. We were blessed with frequent rain all summer—very unusual—so all made it to fall. By that time, the gifted gardenia was three times the size of the other two. 

Now, this spring, the size disparity is greater. Each plant is a different size, and the size difference increases as one moves toward the front of the yard. The tallest is easily three times the size of the smallest. I’m baffled!?! I’ve checked drainage, watering, fertilizer—everything. Could it possibly be I’m dealing with a microclimate where three feet makes a huge difference?  

If anyone has an answer, I’d love to hear it. This is driving me crazy. 

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