Yes, that is a gardenia. Originally it was variegated, but has lost most of the variegation. But, it smells great.
I was born and raised in NY. I never thought I would live anywhere else. But, I have always hated winter. Sure, it's pretty on a postcard, but I don't want to live in it, not even on Christmas, where I rather pick citrus.
We have our seasons and challenges. A severe freeze can knock plants to the ground and some can be lost. That Swiss Cheese Philodendron lost all of its leaves a a couple of yrs ago. We are not truly tropical, so some plants, while impressive compared to their houseplant counterparts, can't compare to their relatives in Hawaii.
W have trees that lose their leaves in the winter and we have seasonal flowers. Many of the plants either lose leaves or just stop growing because of the short days. While there is a definite seasonal change here, it of course is not as severe as in the North. But, I have had winter visitors comment on how everything is so green and I wish they could see everything in the growing season.
I have had nightmares about losing my garden to snow or circumstances forcing me to be up north in the winter. I'm not a sun worshiper, but just being outside working in the garden, gives you a slight tan of protective color. Let's face it, the upper 90's are oppressive, but I can take clothes off, shower, swim, get in the air conditioning, and drink my ice tea. I can never get warm enough in the winter. Even in Florida, in the winter, while the air temperature reads one thing, the surfaces of everything are cold. I hate it. It's all relative.
I had to laugh because I was watching a program about property in Hawaii, on HGTV. Northern buyers were asking why a house had a wood burning stove. The real estate agent explained that some nights it goes down to 60. I would love that, instead of going down to 30.
I value the shade and am turning most of the garden into a forest, with a canopy which enjoys the sun, and many under-plantings, which enjoy the shade.
I understand your love of this climate and all that it offers. You are quite correct about not having to suffer -0 degrees F as we sometimes have to. The great variety of flora and fauna appeals to me. Your planting design ideas perfectly encourages life and living things. You fortunately found your paradise.
I enjoyed your explanation very much, Dominic! And I can understand how you feel about the temperature - I'm not fond of the cold too - it's just that I cannot cope with much sunlight and high temperatures like over 80°Fahrenheit, then my brain shuts down and I really hate that. (Do you all use Fahrenheit, by the way?) My roof garden is growing greener now. Time to make pictures.
I would like to use Centigrade, but I've used Fahrenheit for 71 years, so I just can't picture how hot or cold a Centigrade number is. I use the conversion on my calculator quite often, but still haven't got a handle on Centigrade.
I know there are quite a few people here that use Centigrade, so I do clarify my temperature postings by typing an "F" after the number.