As the summer heats up and mirages appear on distant roadways only to disappear as one approaches, it is time for the dazzling Crepe (or Crape) Myrtle to begin her show. This gorgeous shrub will begin blooming now and continue until late fall. The Crepe Myrtle originally made her way into American gardens in about 1750, so it is well established in the Southern parts of the United States. The most common species came from southern Asia and is called “bai ri hong” by the Chinese, meaning “a hundred days of red”. This species has consistently maintained her popularity by gracing both mansions and farmhouses for over two hundred and fifty years.
This stupendous tree has now been hybridized to include every height. There are dwarf Crepe Myrtles small enough for a patio pot and those that resemble small trees which may be planted as a screen or simply a mass of visual beauty. The blooms arrive in clouds of clusters which exude an exotic look. The deeply ruffled flowers, each almost a quarter of an inch and complete unto itself, are bunched in gorgeous tapering cascades which literally cover the tree. The color spectrum is fantastic as well with the traditional red joined by white, pale or deep pink, shades of rose, and the entire spectrum of lavenders from soft to a deep violet.
The bark of this marvelous species is stunning as well. The interest in the bark lies in the fact the rough outer bark curls and peels, revealing an under bark which is smooth and of contrasting color. The foliage remains throughout the fall, changing to a deep red which lasts until the deepest freeze.
The Crepe Myrtle loves it hot and dry and should be watered only during prolonged dry spells. To maintain flowering throughout the Summer it is recommended that you cut back the spent branches just above the bloom thus causing the tree to produce a new one. Many people trim their Crepe Myrtles quite low in the early Spring to control and maintain their shape and since blooms appear on this years growth, this does not affect the flowering. It is a matter of personal taste whether you wish to have a shrub or tree… however every garden deserves the beauty of at least one lovely Crepe Myrtle.
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