Crape Myrtles

In the summertime, Crape Myrtles are the ornamental tree or shrub for the south.  Many different spellings of Crape Myrtles seem to be acceptable.

In 2006, the year after we moved here, we planted three Dynamite Crape Myrtles.  These were my first ever Crape Myrtles.

This variety was chosen because I wanted a deep red bloom.  It’s interesting that some are actually deep red but others are a lighter pinkish.

Crape Myrtles survive both droughts and humility making it perfect for the damper areas of the deep south and the long periods without rain here in hot, dry Texas.

This corner of the yard has 2 Crape Myrtles of two different varieties.

Planted in 2012, Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is the tallest of all Crape Myrtle.  They can grow to 30′ tall.

The two shorter trees are Centennial Spirit Crapemyrtle (Lagerstoemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’) which were planted in 2015.  I actually went looking for this specific Crape Myrtle and found them in the Metroplex.

Imagine my disappointment at their performance.  They have grown a little taller, but hardly ever bloom.  When they do bloom, it’s just a few little flowers.

A good place to see different varieties of Crape Myrtles is McKinney, Texas, which calls itself the the Crape Myrtle Capitol of Texas.

Other lists are available one-line.

This Black Diamond Crapemyrtle was planted in 2016.  The foliage started out black, but new branches have reverted to green leaves.  Even though it’s in a flowerbed, it gets full sun.  That’s essential for Crapemyrtles.

In another bed, Victor Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Victor’) was planted in 2013. Unfortunately, some other shrubs around it have grown really tall and full.  So, they crowd out the sunlight.  There’s a few blooms each year.  The roots are intertwined with other shrubs, so it can’t be removed.  Poor planning on my part.

Now, to my very favorite Crape Myrtle – “Alamo Fire” Red Crepe Myrtle, which was planted in 2016.  Immediately it began to bloom.

The blooms are so large and gorgeous.

We bought three at a flower show in San Antonio.  The guy selling them was a friend of the hybridizer.  I don’t think they’ve ever gone on the market.  And they were so cheap.  He tried to get me to buy more, but I didn’t think I had room.

Yes, I’ve kicked myself many times since then.

This year I found a small pot of Barista Crapemyrtle.  It’s doing amazing well and grown to about 8 inches and is already blooming.

The branches should be trimmed a little in late winter since they bloom on new growth.  But they should never be chopped off at the top.  Don’t commit ‘Crepe Murder.’  it’s not only wrong in Charlotte, it’s against the law.  Maybe we need that law in Texas.

“Who is the happiest of men?  He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even though t’were his own.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Easy Peasy and Hardy

Plant choice is one of the basic principles of success in the garden.  Research and observing what does well in your area can be fun and helpful.

Crape Myrtles do really well in upper central Texas.  These are the first blooms of the season on  Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia fauriei x indica),               which is one of the tallest varieties.  It can reach 30 feet.  In 8 years, it is already about 10 ft., so this picture is taken looking up.

It was named in honor of Bill Basham, who worked for the city of Houston as a horticulturist in the 1970’s.

Vitex or Chaste (Vitex agnus-castus) woody shrubs or small trees thrive in our hot summers.  This one is growing in a flower bed, so it’s full on the bottom.

Abuzz with bees when in bloom.

The blooms are Texas’ answer to Lilacs.

This Vitex in the back yard must be mowed around, so it’s trimmed in close at the bottom.  The branches of both bushes are pruned at the top to keep it’s size fairly compact.  It can get leggy and unattractive if not pruned in late fall.

This is a different variety from the Vitex in the front yard.  Most are not specifically labeled at nurseries naming the type of Vitex, so it’s a guessing game.

Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) are very hardy here.  Maintenance consists of dividing the clumps every few years.

A wonderful perennial that adds brightness to borders of flowerbeds.

In a field across the driveway, we seeded wildflowers last fall.

One of my favorite ones that is successful here is American Basket Flowers (Plectocephalus americanus).  Buds may look like thistles, but Basket flower stems are not prickly.

Like most wildflowers, it reseeds very well.

Horse Mint or Lemon Beebalm (Monarda citriodoraCerv. ex Lag.) and Coreopsis are happy in this area.

Not all Texas wildflowers do well in every part of Texas.  Our property also has Prairie Verbena, Snow on the Mountain, and Indian Blankets.  In some years when there is more rain, Texas Bluebells can be seen.

Of course, all of these wildflowers are very drought tolerant.

If you’re like me, part of the fun is reading and hearing about plants.  And, of course, shopping for them at local plant sales and privately owned nurseries.

“Pause before judging.  Pause before assuming.  Pause before accusing.  Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.”  Lori Deschene

Sizzling

In the middle of August the temperatures are consistently above 100.  So far, the hottest day reached 107 degrees.  So, as the saying goes, “It’s not fit for man or beast outside”, although that’s usually applied to freezing winter days.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) survives in extreme heat.  It’s twice this size now, but the bright sun washes out pictures, even early in the morning. So I’m using an earlier picture.

Turk’s Cap is a native of southern US and Mexico, so it’s no wonder that it does well here.

Just can’t praise this perennial enough.  Pollinators love it.  It grows in sun or shade.

The flowers are unique and interesting.

This picture of Dynamite Red Crape Myrtles was also taken earlier in the summer.  But, to me, red epitomizes the heat of summer.  The bushes still have some flowers on them.

Dynamite Red Crape Myrtle, a result of Carl Whitcom’s breeding that hybridized it for mildew resistance, cold hardiness and drought.  Also, it falls into the medium size crape myrtle group.  It’s a winner.

The small flowers of Strawberry Gomphrena pop because they’re so bright.

This picture is from the internet, but its details are excellent.   Each flower contains about 100 seeds, so it’s a great re-seeder plant.

This picture was also taken earlier in the summer.  I promise that the weeds and rocks have been cleared out.  The brilliant red of Showbiz Rose makes it a stunner.

Kolanchoe is a dependable bloomer in the heat as long it is not in the direct sun.

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) likes the heat but not direct sunlight.  Another plus is that the flowers last for months.

The wicked thorns makes it a little difficult to haul the pot indoors for the winter.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a wonderful drought tolerant plant that holds its blooms until the first freeze.

Up close, its aroma is divine.  Just rub your hand along the foliage to carry that scent around for a little while.

Natives are always reliable in this heat.  Insects on the leaves of this Clammy Weed or Red Whisker Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) has given it a ragged look, but it survives and blooms all summer long.  It is not one of those plants you want to touch because your hands will feel sticky until you can scrub them with soap and water.

South African Bulbine is unconcerned with the heat.  The spiky leaves are actually soft.  The leaves and tall thin stems lose little moisture, so they do really well here.

It’s really quite amazing how many plants, including many others not pictured, can endure this heat.  Of course, they are all getting some extra water in this heat.

“Too hot to change board.  Sin, bad.  Jesus, good.  More details inside.”                       On a church changeable letters board.

Crape Myrtle Time

The sun is strong and the heat is high, but the Crape Myrtles love it.  Some varieties start blooming in late spring and some in summer.

Three Dynamites were my first Crape Myrtles.  I wanted deep red flowers.

We planted them in a flower bed in a triangular shape in 2006.  They are about 5 and a half feet tall now.  The mature height for this variety is 20 – 30 feet.  This is a reminder that soil type and depth is a factor in any bush or tree growth.

Some of the flowers are red while others tend to be more pink.

This picture also shows what happens if all the little bloom twigs are not cut off at the end of winter.   Crape myrtles bloom on new growth, so this task is important.

This year we were involved in cleaning out my mother’s house to get it ready for the market.  So many late winter, early spring garden chores were neglected.

Here’s how that same bush looks groomed.

Although it’s a good idea to do research before any plant purchase, I often just skip right to the fun part of buying when I see something I like.

These two Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) are a case in point.  As an aside:  Crapemyrtle is sometimes spelled as one word and sometimes as two.  So I’m using whichever was used on each label.

Fortunately, the final height of 30′ to 40′ will work well in our yard.  Online resources about Crapemyrtles make it easy to plan ahead.

Ruffled petal edges add to the charm.

Two Centennial Spirit Crapemyrtle were planted in 2015.  They have struggled to survive and grow.  Most Crapemyrtles have a cold hardy temperature of 10 degrees.  This winter, temps dropped down to 4 and stayed there for several days.  So several plants have taken longer than usual to recover.

My most favorite variety of all is Alamo Fire Red.  All three plants have been healthy, hardy, and growing ever since they were put in the ground.  They even bloomed the first year.

They were bought from a man at a private plant sale in San Antonio.  Strangely, they aren’t listed on the A & M list. They are on a chart from Fanick’s Nursery in San Antonio.  So I don’t know how readily available they are on the general market.

Black Diamond Crapemyrtles feature nearly black leaves.  This was planted in a container in 2016 and put into the ground this year.

Mulch is highly recommended for any plant in our area to conserve moisture loss and to help with the temperature of root systems.  More mulch is obviously needed here.

Crapemyrtles are available in many shades of pink, red, lavender, and white.  They are probably the most spectacular small flowering tree in this area.  Just can’t praise them enough for their beauty and reliability.

“Be like a tree.  Stay grounded.  Connect with your roots.  Turn over a new leaf.  Bend before you break.  Enjoy your unique natural beauty.  Keep growing.”  Joanne Rapits

Garden “Bones”

“The “bones” of a garden are the elements that are permanent and that provide its structure: trees, shrubs, arbors, walls, trellises, walkways, and statuary or other sculptural elements. They represent the garden as it appears when the growing season ends, when the color and texture provided by blooming plant material is muted by snow and bare earth.”

The above quote explains what is meant by garden bones.  Click on the link to read more.

In this post, I’m only going to focus on a few living bones:  trees and large shrubs.

When we built the house 13 years ago, this was a pasture.  The only tree was a large Live Oak behind the backyard.

In this picture, the tallest tree is a Bur Oak on the east side of the house.  Eventually, it should shade a window in the morning.  Behind that is a Red Oak and then a Texas Ash, neither of which can be seen in this picture.

To the right in the background is a Cherry Laurel.  To the far right behind the house is an old, old Live Oak.  It’s probably a hundred years old.

In the front yard is a Chinkapin Oak.  There are a couple of trees behind it.

Really wish I knew what this bush is.  It was planted years ago.

During the winter the stems or trunks of this large bush reminds me of a water fountain.

Wind provides lots of motion.

Usually we cut the stems down to the ground in late winter.  Then leaves grow all the way up the stems.  This year that chore did not get done and the stems only have pom poms of leaves on the ends.  Interesting look.

Basham’s Party Pink  (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Basham’s Party Pink’) is one of the first Crapemyrtles to bloom each year.  It seems to me that white and pink ones always bloom earlier than deeper colored ones.

One of the tallest varieties of Crapemyrtles, Basham’s Party Pink can reach 30 to 40 feet.  This one is six years old.

Flowering trees are a great attribute in a yard, if only for a few weeks or months of the year.

Most of the Goldenball Leadtrees (Leguminosae Fabaceae) I’ve seen are only 8 to 10 feet tall.  But Texas A & M reports that they can reach 25 feet tall and wide.  Oh dear, this one will be extremely crowded if it gets that wide.

Although Desert Bird of Paradise (Erythrostemon gilliesii) is a tropical tree from South America, it has naturalized in Texas.

It’s hardy and many pollinators feast on it.

Vitex or Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has become favorite.  A native of China and India, it is naturalized throughout the southern U.S.

I’ve been told they bloom better and look better if pruned to maintain an 8 to 10 foot height.

What’s not to love about these striking flowers?  Plus, they perfume the air.

Generally, I prefer to zoom in on details of flowers.  But good bones are definitely the most important elements of a yard and garden.  As summer is upon us, I’m reminded how wonderful it is to have shade provided by trees in the yard.

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.”   Bill Vaughan

Trees Anchor a Garden

West Texas, where I spent my childhood and youth, is almost devoid of trees, except for Mesquites.  So, I am reminded that no matter where one lives, there are public gardens where nature in all its beauty can be seen.  You might to travel to get there, but that’s can be a plus.

Tulip trees at Dallas Arboretum have a come hither pull on me.  It’s called a Tulip Tree, but it’s actually a Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana).

Even though they are past their prime, the lovely romantic look hasn’t passed.

Redbuds are blossoming out.

There was no identification sign on this one, but people around us were saying it was a Cherry Tree.  I thought Cherry Trees were much smaller.  This one was tall.  So I have my doubts about that ID.  But I’m certainly no expert.

Another Redbud that contrasts nicely with the Magnolia.

This is technically a large woody shrub.  The brilliant red of this Double Take Flowering Quince ‘Scarlet Storm’ (Chaenomeles speciosa) is blinding.  It makes my small native Texas Quince look pitiful.

So many towering tree in the garden give it a homey, comforting feel.  Even the bare branches provide some shade.

The arching of these bare Crape Myrtles remind me of Paris, for some reason.  Gorgeous tunnel effect.

Shakespeare and some symbols from his plays entice people to sit with him for a picture.

I’m not an authority on his works, but recognize this lion and crown as being from ‘King Lear’.

This little guy was behind Shakespeare.

As was this young maiden.

At first, I assumed this was a Japanese Maple.  But, I’m certainly not sure.

Sure like the color of the branches.

Lots of different structures add additional interest to the gardens.  This one also provides seating.  The large evergreen trees might be Live Oaks.

Looking a different direction shows more arches and a restaurant.

It’s easy to see why people call these Tulip trees.  So pretty.

Hope your spring is filled with beautiful trees and flowers.

“A toddler can do more in one unsupervised minute than most people can do all day.”  unknown