In Praise of the Crepe Myrtle


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I have ad an uneasy relationship with the my crepe myrtles. This tree had fallen out of favor with me, but recently I think that this tree deserves another look.

Crepe myrtles are a reliable plant for summer color in Houston. They do not seem to need much water once established. They are fairly fast growing, but they do not need to overpower the landscape. They are one tree which does not seem to effect the home (foundation, drainage pipes, and walls) as much as some others (but be careful, because they can still do harm). So why did I not want more crepe myrtles for such a long time? They became common place in my thoughts. We see them so often in southern gardens. I also came to see pruning them as a chore. I was not so upset with the debris that these trees produce; my neighbors on the other hand have hurled profanity my way to inform me of their displeasure. They have banged on my door ordering that these trees be severely pruned back. Should I mention the bag of garbage that I collect each week from the junk spilling out of their car onto my garden. I did remove some trees and pruned to appease them.

    My problem was that some previous owner had planted eight crepe myrtles in one area. These were a mess when I had moved into the home, so I did not have such a great feeling towards them. The inspiration for my newly rediscovered appreciation came from talking to a client this past weekend. At the end of my home inspection, she was mentioning to her husband how she wanted a fast growing tree in their backyard. This backyard was desolate. She wanted the shade of a tree. I could sympathize with that feeling. The problem with fast growing trees is that they often die fast as well. We are speaking of a tree, so we are looking at a forty year time frame, yet a large falling limb can damage the home. I suggested if she wanted some shade with a bit of color that she should consider a crepe myrtle. I was working, so my attention was drawn away from the conversation, so I did not mention fruit trees, which also would have been good choices.
    Home inspections during the summer heat bring no joy. I was worn out after this job, so I went home to sit in the shady part of the rear garden. One of the crepe myrtles which I had moved from the front yard was in full bloom with its deep pink flowers near the vegetable beds. I scanned across to see a white crepe myrtle, from which my daughters were harvesting flowers for the dinner table. I could see the deep purple of a crepe myrtle tree in the distance. I went the next day to purchase a red crepe myrtle for a spot along my fence. This area had been in deep shade until recently, but the tree crews had cleared out the overgrown holly bushes of one of my neighbors, leaving me with a bed in full sun. All of my shade loving plants were suffering.  This splash of red cheered me up.
    I think that I should buy a purple flowered crepe myrtle next, or maybe someone will give me a cutting. Crepe myrtles are easy to propagate from cuttings. My one problem with them is still having to prune them often to obtain the look I want. These trees have such wonderful trunks that can be covered by all of the new growth. I prefer the multi-stem look, but crepe myrtles will keep going if you are not careful. You can grown them as a single trunk tree, and these are nice too.  I guess that I do not mind the pruning since I appreciate the tree again.

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Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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