My informal poll, which should have been here instead of on Dotty Pants, has ended. The top favorite Southern plant is the Gardenia, followed with a tie for second between Dogwood and Crape Myrtle.
Gardenias are hardy in zone 8. I had Gardenias when I lived just south of Atlanta, but a 5 degree freeze would split the stems all the way to the ground and the poor plant would have to be cut down and start all over again from the roots.
My fav Crape Myrtle is Lilacina, an old plant I found in the pasture and identified, taking suckers to grow into more trees. I look forward to all the crapes blooming soon. I like the graceful fountain shape of the whites. My whites were seedlings from underneath white trees of the Colonel's Lady, Mrs. Gladys.
Little dogwood seedlings have come up all along the path under the dogwoods in the azalea walk. They'll need new homes next year, maybe under the drip line of some oak trees. MIL would be pleased to see so many dogwoods here now, she worked so hard to get the two old trees transplanted from the woods and coaxed to grow, 50 years ago.