Crape Myrtle Trees

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer bloomer in our climate. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall in full sun or part shade.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.

Crape Myrtle Trees
beautiful in summer and fall

If your looking for a small tree to provide year-round beauty, consider a crape myrtle for your landscape. The tree gets it’s name from the appearance of the flower petals that are crinkled, resembling crepe paper. They can be planted together to make a large hedge or screen, or in a grove or a single tree can act as a specimen to create a distinctive focal point.

The trees leaf out rather late in the spring. Then about midsummer, large 6 inch flower clusters form on the ends of the branches, and bloom through the summer and fall. The flowers are truly outstanding, and come in vibrant pink, purple, watermelon red, lavender and white.

In the fall after the leaves turn yellow, orange and red and then drop, the attractive trunk and branches are revealed. The bark of the crape myrtle is mottled and smooth. With age, the grey bark peels away to reveal a reddish-brown color underneath that is attractive all winter.

Crape myrtle is actually a shrub but tree forms, which have been pruned to create one strong central trunk, are very popular. The tree form of crape myrtle will grow to a maximum height of 15 to 20 feet tall and spread about 10 feet wide.

They flower best in full-sun locations, but will tolerate light shade or morning shade. Deep shade locations are not recommended, because the tree will not flower well and will be prone to developing powdery mildew disease.

Newly planted crape myrtles should be watered often for the first summer to aid establishment. Watering should then be gradually reduced in frequency. Crape myrtles like moist, well drained soil but are drought tolerant once established. More frequent watering will make them grow faster.

To keep crape myrtles attractive, suckers should be removed on tree forms. Pruning to remove old flower clusters will promote additional blooming, but it is not necessary to prune the tree to make it bloom. Small twiggy growth should be thinned out from underneath and within the canopy.

Never cut main branches and leave stubs. These trees should be allowed to develop their natural style without whacking off their tops, which ruins the natural graceful effect of the plant.

If you like trees with lots of color and character, check out the crape myrtle. It may be just the tree your looking for to add to your home landscape.

Fall Color in the Garden

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Tulips can paint the spring garden with almost any color you choose. Plant them now to enjoy their bright flowers next April.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Chrysanthemums can be planted in pots or flower beds for bright and cheerful flowers to enjoy this fall.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.
    • Don’t let dahlia bulbs stay in the ground during the winter.  Lift them when the tops have dried.

Fall Color in the Garden

Though many plants pass into winter rather quietly, there are a number of shrubs that end their growing season with a flash of bright colors. Reds, yellows and oranges usher out the last warm days with a cheery farewell.

Japanese barberry is an attractive, red-leaved shrub whose foliage displays a festival of colors before dropping. The leaves turn to yellow, orange and red all on the same plant. It also has bright red berries.

Burning bush is a real eye-catcher. Also known as winged Euonymus, it is a dense, green background shrub that suddenly turns bright red in the fall.

Japanese rose, Kerria japonica, is a graceful large shrub with flowers like small yellow roses in the spring and summer. In autumn, the bright green leaves turn to golden yellow before they fall.

Crape myrtle is well-known for its papery pink, purple or red flowers in the summer. It is also pretty in the fall when the leaves change to yellow, orange and red before they drop.

Heavenly bamboo, Nandina, is a good-looking shrub year-round. In the spring it puts on a lovely display of white flowers that produce berries which turn bright red in the fall. The leaves also take on a reddish hue and both berries and leaves hang on through the winter.

Spiraeas are a large family of shrubs with tiny flowers in clusters. The spring-blooming varieties, like ‘Bridal Wreath’, have long arching branches covered with delicate white flowers. In the fall they are again colorful as the dark green leaves turn to a rich red.

Snowball bush also has lovely fall foliage. This handsome bush is covered with clusters of white flowers that look like snowballs in the spring. In the fall, its leaves become flushed with rosy red before they drop.

Probably the most brilliant red, besides poison oak, comes from Virginia creeper and Boston ivy. These deciduous vines turn a brilliant scarlet when the weather starts to cool. Clinging to a fence, they make a spectacular backdrop to any garden.

Don’t let your garden have the fall blues. Dress it up with the bright reds and yellows of these shrubs and vines.

Trees for Summertime Livin’

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer bloomer in our climate. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall in full sun or part shade.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • Trim grapevines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and sweeten the grapes, if they are being shaded heavily by the foliage.

Trees for Summertime Livin’

Trees are never appreciated more than in the summer when their welcome shade provides a cool escape from the brutal sun. Though most of our trees bloom in the spring, there are a few trees that offer both shade and flowers to enjoy throughout the summer.

Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is perhaps the best known of our summer-flowering trees. In Willits they start blooming in August and continue into the fall. It is often chosen for a small tree because of its brilliant blossoms which come in all shades of pink, red, and lavender. The trunks and bark are also attractive and it grows well in small spaces. Easy to grow, the new crape myrtle varieties resist disease, grow faster and give you longer lasting, brighter blooms. The most popular color now is bright red, ‘Dynamite’.

Another beautiful tree is Albizia julibrissin, known by several common names including “Mimosa” and “Silk Tree.” This gracefully spreading tree grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet, spreading to 25 – 35 feet wide. It is fast growing and has a low branching habit that often creates multiple trunks. The delicate, lacy, almost fern-like foliage is very attractive. Fragrant, silky, pink puffy pompom blooms appear in the summer. The litter problem of the blooms, leaves and long seed pods requires consideration when planting this tree. Mimosa is popular for use as a terrace or patio tree for its light, dappled shade and tropical effect. The variety ‘Flame’ has rose-red flowers that are very beautiful.

Another lovely tree, which is not well-known, is the Chitalpa. It is a tough tree that does well in hot, dry areas. It grows 20 to 40 feet tall and as wide with soft leaves and beautiful blooms. Indeed the blossoms are its crowning glory. The fragrant and orchid-like flowers appear at the tips of the branches from early summer to fall, in shades of lavender and pink. The multi-trunked habit makes it well suited for a wide screen. Its light shade allows enough light for flowers to grow beneath.

Evergreen magnolias, Magnolia grandiflora, offer a long season of sweet scented white flowers in the summer. These magnificent trees are slow-growing but provide an excellent backdrop to a large garden, or a tall, spreading shade tree. Their glossy, leathery leaves, 4-8 inches long, are attractive throughout the year. The fruit is a cone-like cluster (to 3-5” long) of rosy-red glossy seeds. Magnolia trees are heat-resistant and tolerate wet soil. There are also smaller forms available with the same deliciously fragrant white flowers.

Flowering trees provide a focal point for the summer garden or patio area and add to your enjoyment of the outdoors.