Photo: The Suss-Man (flickr)
In warm areas of the United States, Crepe Myrtle trees blooming in high summer are a spectacular sight. The trees, which have exfoliating bark, thrive in zones 8 to 9. In the lower mid west, crepe myrtles can be grown as small shrubs. They are killed back to their roots each winter in the same way Butterfly bushes die back in our gardens.
Crepe Myrtles are natives of China and belong to the genus “Lagerstroemia.” The flowers appear at the tips of the new season’s growth.
I have quite a few crepe myrtle bushes in my southern Indiana garden and some have persisted as long as ten years, though I have lost a few in harsh winters when I have forgotten to mulch them well. They are late to break dormancy, so I watch them closely, waiting for the reddish green growth to appear in May.
The flowers are lavender, pink, red or white and when they appear they light my hot and tired garden shrugging off the heat that so many of our perennials dislike.
They remind me of my childhood home in Queensland, Australia, where their mid-summer bloom occurred in December, and so they were known as “Christmas Bushes.” The flowers are densely clustered and each has 6 petals reminiscent of crepe paper.
Myrtle is available for sale at Burnham Woods Nursery.