Thursday, October 03, 2013

Crape Myrtle - Lessons Learned

 Our Crape Myrtle - Lagerstroemia x fauriei 'Natchez'
 A Love Story




When we bought this house it came with a beautiful Crape Myrtle tree that neither of us knew really anything about. That's it on the left, this photo is from about 2008 (wow, the whole garden looks so different! More on that in my first blog post here). Well, live and learn as the old saying goes, and which is quite applicable in this situation. Our lovely myrtle has seen the brunt of abuse this past year, and, in a way, this post is another "before and after" - that is to say before the deluges of early fall this year and after the near typhoon conditions of this past weekend. **note** see how pretty and full the tree is at this stage? Remember this.

Not to spoil the mystery of the lesson to be learned, but basically we learned to PRUNE the darned thing to avoid further disaster. So let's take a tour of the beauty of this tree in its gorgeous "before" state through the seasons and then see the "after" state it is in today.




We have grown to LOVE this tree, it is a standout on our block and cranks out interest year round. In the late summer it is covered with fluffy white blossoms that bees adore. It is one of the last trees to bloom and is worth the wait.










 Still full and pretty this summer despite losing a major branch in a 2009 snowstorm. Did we learn then? Oh, no.







 In the autumn after the blossom-fest is finished, the leaves turn a gorgeous color before they eventually fall.







Wow, that's some yummy coloring.

That's it on the left again, this photo was taken spring of this year. It looks like this between about January through April, one of the last trees to leaf out. That's ok with me, I love the structure and form of the tree and the bark is exfoliating and beautiful. In this form the birds regularly use it as a landing post before they visit the feeders.

So those are the seasons of the Crape Myrtle. Now let's see what happened to it since the big rainfall of August and the downpours over this past weekend.


 We awoke to this scene after a heavy night of rain a few weeks ago. With the gazillions of blossoms, the extra water weight was just too much for the poor thing to handle. We should not have let it get to this state.


Let me tell you our poor mailman probably hated us for a few days as you literally had to crawl under a sopping wet blossomy tunnel-mess to get to the front door. Our neighbors had do do the same if walking by on the sidewalk. Sorry neighbors!


  Every day for a few days I would use the broom upside down and shake loose as much water as I could to lighten the load. Blossoms came down, I'm still finding them in my clothing a month later. And my car. And the house. And the bushes. And my husband's shoes. And the cats. Ok, not the cats, but everything else.

So that big disaster went away as the blossoms eventually fell. We were out of the woods!
Not.

This past weekend, the tail end of a typhoon visited the Portland area and we saw record rain. We came home from dinner Saturday night to find a major branch had not only broken off but landed on my bird feeders and the Loropetalum chinense or Razzleberry bush which had already suffered at the hands of my over-zealous pruning husband earlier this year. It *was* on the mend. I did not initially take photographs of the crime scene as I was too sad. But as the branch was removed and the heavy pruning began, I grabbed my camera. 

Poor guy.
More sky, though.




 Here's half of what we pruned out.


 Here's the other half.



 There's the branch, after all the smaller branches have been trimmed off. I will probably use it somewhere in the garden, like this:
Here's the branch from the 2009 snow storm in the back garden.

 And...the poor Loropetalum chinense or Razzleberry. Broken. **Sniff**


Thus concludes the tale of the Crape Myrtle Massacre. We have learned our lesson to research even the established plants in our garden to learn their growth habits, needs, pruning tips. We are lucky it didn't lose more limbs, really. I just loved how big and graceful it was getting, not realizing the danger. That almost cost me my favorite tree in our garden. 

If he had said goodbye, we probably would have replaced him with another - we like the tree so much.

Here are some statistics from Dave's Garden:


Japanese Crepe Myrtle, Crape Myrtle 
Lagerstroemia x fauriei 'Natchez'

Family: Lythraceae (ly-THRAY-see-ee) 
Genus: Lagerstroemia (la-ger-STREEM-ee-a) 
Species: x fauriei (FAU-ree-eye)
Cultivar: Natchez

Height:

to 20' tall and wide
Hardiness:Zone 6 - 9

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Foliage:

Deciduous

Smooth-Textured

Other details:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Provides winter interest
 
 Fabulous tree! 
What's your favorite tree in your garden? Leave a post in the comments!
Thank you for reading!


8 comments :

  1. fifi la fontaine11:48 AM PDT

    Whoa, that stinks, T! I had no idea that soggy blossoms could be the downfall of such a stately established tree. I don't really have a clue about pruning either but I did take a day class at P.N. on how to prune Japanese maples, which was informative. Anyway, hope the Crape Myrtle is on a speedy recovery. It still is a gorgeous tree.

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    1. Hiya Fifi, so did you learn anything good at your PN class? Would be interested to hear what they had to say! Yes, isn't it sad? Kind of funny, really but man...yes, I hope it has a speedy recovery too!

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    2. fifi la fontaine8:59 AM PDT

      The PN class covered the very basics, so like don't chop down over 30% of the Japanese maple in one pruning and clear dead branches first. The best time to prune is in fall and if you prune in late spring, it won't hurt the tree, but the sap might be running and it'll be a mess....what other tidbits...oh, and how you can direct branch growth to promote good structure by cutting at the right spot. There was other stuff too, but I forgot. I should take that class again.

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    3. Sounds like good advice, indeed. We just had to prune regardless of the time of year, a necessary evil. Oh well...I guess live and learn! Pruning = good.

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  2. Nice job with the pruning. It's good to see, given that topping is still common with crepe myrtles. I love 'Natchez' and am thinking where I might be able to cram one into my yard...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Treetour! Yes, I learned about topping with crepe myrtles. It seems so odd but I guess I can understand better. I love Natchez too, it's a great tree, I would recommend it for sure despite my ignorance about it.

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  3. Ugh - I feel for you both... What a blow! Still, I'm glad most of it seems to have survived - it is a gorgeous tree! My favorite tree in our garden is a GIANT Magnolia grandiflora. It reaches far beyond our house. Absolutely massive! I do have a Crape myrtle too, but it was one of those little saplings from the National Arbor Day Foundation. Fast-growing, and by now pretty tall, it shoots straight up, and so far has none of the lovely branching structure of yours. And, the flowers are a pale pink, which I'm not overly fond of. I like the Natchez soooo much better!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Creativeflux, thank you for your thoughts! It was a blow, but as most people have pointed out, it is a stout little tree and hopefully will regain its former glory. I do love Natchez so much, it's honestly a four-season joy, I would absolutely recommend it. I've seen the pink ones you have and they can be lovely too! They seem so exotic and the Natchez seems right at home for some reason.

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