P81201KIt is certainly not my favorite small tree. Actually, in most situations, I rather dislike it, which is why I sometimes accidentally spell it without the first ‘e’. It is a cop out; a micro tree that too often ends up where a larger and more respectable tree would be more appropriate. They are not shade trees. They are not not big enough for freeway landscapes or to be street trees on wide boulevards. They are not immune to diseases and insect infestations; and they commonly drop honeydew from aphid or scale infestation, and lose their bloom to powdery mildew. They are not ‘low-maintenance’, and really should be pruned more than they are, but will get you in trouble with the neighbors if you prune them as aggressively as they should be pruned.
They are popular because of their potential for remarkably flashy bloom, and because they do not get big enough to damage the sidewalks and curbs that they are so often planted next to. ‘Gardeners’ like them because they survive their neglect. That is no long list of attributes; but there is one more.
FALL COLOR! On a bad year, they merely turn bright yellow. This year, some are this exquisitely bright orange with a slight red blush. The various cultivars display various colors, so some are more colorful than others. They are also on different schedules, so the most colorful are not necessarily the most colorful every year. Those that colored early are already bare, but could be the most colorful next year if the weather turns cold early. A bunch in town that are also defoliating as fast as they color because of the recent rain, could be the most colorful next year if rain is delayed later than it was this year.P81201K+

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11 thoughts on “Crape Myrtle Finale

  1. They have magical color and are all sorts of shapes because people are nuts in their opinions of how to trim them. The thing is, all the opinionated people just say what NOT to do and never say HOW they should be pruned (just don’t do that thing where you get a fountain of blossoms in the spring). And then there’s the wild, multi trunked untrimmed mess that yields a few blossoms. I have never seen one quite the shape of the one you photographed. Interesting. I do like them, but occasionally wish they were better trimmed than they are…

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    1. The shape also depends on the cultivar. I find that the ‘Natchez White’ has a sloppy unkempt canopy when mature, but the best color in autumn. (Even though white is my favorite color, I do not think that it is a good color for crape myrtle.) The one in the picture is the common bright pink that might be ‘Tuscarora’. It usually has great color in autumn, but not always. It has good form, but needs to be pruned for clearance in trafficked areas. Pollarding works very well for crape myrtles, but is not an acceptable technique among horticultural professionals with something to prove. We all want to go along with the crowd.

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      1. To make matters worse, those who try to pollard crape myrtles or anything else that should get pollarded, is that they do not do it properly. Instead of being an overgrown thicket, pollarded trees are merely disfigured and torn . . . .and just plain icky!

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    1. Yes, I have heard about that and that some consider it to be too common like it is here. I know it is a very useful tree, and has plenty of attributes. What I dislike about it is that it is the default for ‘gardeners’ who do not care about their work.

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  2. I’d like to get a red cultivar. Here in Michigan, it would probably die to the ground in winter. Apparently they can do it without harm? There are no blood red blooming trees that I know of, so that’s one reason I’d like one. Another reason is their load of lacy flowers! They aren’t common in zone 6A, so I’m favorably disposed to them. Are there any varieties that accept that treatment without harm? If they die to the ground they won’t need pruning-is that right? Please explain your disapproval of others pruning styles. My tree pet peeve is the ornamental pear. No one goes for variety here-it’s always ornamental pears. Up and down, street after street. They break off and look terrible and they smell so bad when they bloom. A good companion to the detestable Stella d’Oro daylily. Every street corner, when there are so many other colors and sizes. Don’t get me started about landscapers with no imagination.

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    1. Although I prefer to pollard crepe myrtles, and I know that some people coppice them. I do not know how they would tolerate getting frozen to the ground. Coppicing leaves the base of the trunk, from which adventitious buds easily develop. Getting frozen lower than grade would kill all stem grown, so that adventitious buds would need to develop from the roots, which is not so easy. A specimen might do that for a year or two, but would eventually wear itself out if it needed to continue to do it without at least some sort of stem growth to do it from in the spring. A local horticulturist would know. I would guess that they would survive there, without freezing below grade. They are quite happy in some rather cold climate. I have seen happy specimens in Sparks in Nevada. Some types survive in Chicago. However, I would not recommend buying them by mail order, since some cultivars that prefer milder climates may not be so well suited to cold winter. Those that you get locally would be selected for the local climate. (If they are not available, it may be because they do not survive there, but it is worth asking about.) If they get frozen to the ground but survive (in the roots), the dead material should be cut to the ground before new growth develops. If they do not freeze, but you would prefer to coppice them anyway, any cultivar that would survive there would do well with coppicing. When I coppice, I prefer to leave a small knuckle stump just above the grade, sort of like pollarding, but without the trunks and limbs. It is just neater than a thicket of canes emerging from below grade. I dislike other pruning styles for crepe myrtles here because the crepe myrtles accumulate such thickets of twiggy growth that does not bloom well. Severe pruning stimulates them and keeps them growing faster than powdery mildew. Flowering pear ‘sort of’ does well for us because we lack the severe weather that tears them apart. I think that in a few more years, when those that were popular in the 1980s start to get old, we will notice that more of them succumb to structural deficiency. At the moment, they are having difficulty with fireblight. Otherwise, they are one of the most reliable trees for autumn foliar color.

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