Master Gardeners selling dependable crape myrtles

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2008

By Carole Massey-
Master Gardener Coordinator
Even with the heat and continuing drought, the most noticeable tree of Salisbury continues to bloom and bloom and bloom.
Everywhere there is a public garden or urban landscaped median, the crape myrtle is the specimen tree. Introduced to this country in 1747, crape myrtles are known for their excellent drought resistance, rapid growth, multihued flowers and virtually low maintenance.
As popular as the older varieties are, there is awareness among the Rowan County Master Gardeners of a disease (a madness) we call “crape murder.”
The symptoms of this illness are evident in the early spring when healthy tree-form crape myrtles are attacked by chainsaw-yielding landscape crews and homeowners with the express desire to “trim the tree.”
The crape myrtle is a tree or natural round shrub which, when properly pruned, needs minimal effort to maintain an attractive shape and promote healthy growth.
The best time to prune is when the tree is dormant, January through April. Broken, dead and crossed limbs do need to be removed. Suckers at the base of the tree and along the truck should be removed also.
If a tree form is desired, limb up the rounded shape by pruning off side branches. Limit pruning to no more than 25 percent of the live branches. A plant that has been neglected may need several years of selective pruning to achieve a desired appearance.
Rather than the common assumption that excessive pruning promotes heavier flowering, it instead reduces the flower show due to the removal of significant nutrient reserves. If in doubt, just do nothing. An over-pruned tree can have permanent damage and is not easily corrected, while an under-pruned tree lives to bloom another year.
Perhaps with this information and offering a smaller tree form, our upcoming sale will promote healthier and more attractive crape myrtles for Rowan County landscapes.
The Rowan County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association selected the following varieties based on their size, unusual flower colors, fall foliage color, hardiness and suitability for a variety of landscape situations.
The varieties offered are:
Chickasaw ó dwarf, compact, dense mound, 2 to 3 feet. Pink-lavender. Bronze-red foliage in the fall. Very good mildew resistance. Slow growing miniature. Good for small spaces, containers.
Pocomoke ó miniature, compact mound, 2 to 3 feet. Rose pink. Bronze-red fall color. Very good mildew resistance. Densely branched miniature.
Victor ó upright dwarf 3 to 4 feet. Deep red. Yellow foliage in fall. Good mildew resistance.
Tonto ó globose semi-dwarf, 5 to 10 feet. Dark fuchsia. Bright maroon fall color. Light chestnut and cream bark. Very good mildew resistance.
The best deep red colored of the hybrids.
Acoma ó spreading, semipendulous, 5 to 10 feet. Purple-red fall color. Tan, cream, light gray bark. Very good mildew resistance. Splendid small tree.
Pink Velour ó upright, 8 to 10 feet, symmetrical. Vibrant fuchsia-pink with distinctive burgundy-colored new growth changing to dark purplish-green. Purple-red fall color. High mildew resistance. Drought tolerant, splendid small tree.
The plants will arrive during the fall planting season, Oct 2 and 3. All plants are locally grown and are acclimated for our area. They come in 3-gallon containers and will sell for $14 each. Orders will be taken by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers or by calling the extension office at 704-216-8970. For further information, go to www.rowanmastergardener.com.
Carole Massey is the Master Gardener Coordinator for Cooperative Extension in Rowan County.

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