Crape Myrtle - Lessons Learned
Our Crape Myrtle - Lagerstroemia x fauriei 'Natchez'
A Love Story
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!
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.
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)
to 20' tall and wide
Hardiness:Zone 6 - 9
Late Summer/Early Fall
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest
What's your favorite tree in your garden? Leave a post in the comments!
Thank you for reading!