07 June 2011

Flora Focus: Crape Myrtle

It's crape myrtle season in Texas. Everywhere you look, there are explosions of crape paper-y flowers in red, white, pink, and purple. (By the way, there's a bit of a controversy over whether it's "crape myrtle" or "crepe myrtle." Either works. And some people need juicier controversies.)

Our landscaping plan included a crape myrtle in the main planting bed in the backyard, next to the patio, but we decided to add a second one in the front yard when we realized that the Japanese maple we had planned for in front of the office was illegal under the green building rules (or, rather, it would have kept us from getting a five-star rating). So we decided to put a second crape myrtle there.

And we decided to go to extremes -- one of the smallest varieties we could find for the front, and one of the largest for the back. First, for the front, we chose a dwarf royalty crape myrtle.

It's the tallest "dwarf" we could find -- it should reach about six feet tall. As it grows, I'd like to shape it more as a small tree than a large shrub so it will provide a vertical element to the far end of the house without overwhelming the architecture and balance of the house.

For the backyard, we went with Basham's Party Pink (BPP for short), which could grow as tall as 30 feet and will hopefully, eventually, provide some shade the patio (which currently gets direct sun well into the evening). I wanted light pink flowers, but we were also really drawn to the idea of a huge crape myrtle that would provide afternoon shade, so we chose the BPP based mostly on size, hoping that the "lavender pink" blossoms mentioned on one of the tags would be closer to pink:

(I would have preferred light pink for the front, too, but I also chose based on size there as well and ended up with more of a purple/magenta variety, which will be fine.)

While I picked up the royalty from Home Depot, brought it home in my car, and easily planted it myself, the BPP came from the tree farm where we got our lacey oak, occupied a huge 45-gallon pot, arrived on a flatbed truck, and was professionally planted.

Another fun thing about crape myrtles is that they have exfoliating bark. Some varieties are more interesting than others, but both of ours should exfoliate nicely. In fact, the BPP already is:

So, with both of our crape myrtles planted, I was excited to post pictures, but before I could get to it, I noticed this:

Royalty buds! (Sounds like some kind of commemorative iPod product in honor of Will and Kate's wedding.) I'm the least patient person I know -- with the possible exception of Steve -- but I made myself wait to post pictures until it was fully in bloom. Which I knew would happen as soon as we got a big rain. And which, miracle of miracles, we did last week (remember the hail storm?), so our little crape myrtle was finally ready for its close-up:

And as luck would have it, by the time I could finally get a good picture, the BPP had sprouted its first sweet little bloom, too:

Do you see it? Right there in the middle? (It was too far off the ground for a close-up shot.) We chose the BPP without actually seeing a blooming example in person, so I was prepared for it to be a lot more lavender. I'm thrilled that it's looking like a true pink.

And 'cause I love crape myrtle blossoms, another view of the royalty:

And the blooms (which are more like crape paper than French pancakes, which is why I choose to spell it "crape"):

We still have a few more things to plant, but the yard is starting to look like something that we might someday be able to sit back and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Love them! Can't wait to sit in the patio with that shade :)