Saturday, July 28, 2012

From There to Here : Crepe Myrtle

Our table at Magpie's, 
the cute cafe in St. Charles, Missouri that I mentioned yesterday, 
was on a mid-level terrace next to a bed of chameleon plant, 
the plant I referred to as the real "devil's ivy" in an earlier blog
because of its invasive habit. 
I made a point of inspecting the edges of the bed 
and the stone tiles on the terrace
for any sign of a leafy upstart that refused to stay in its place.
But in this drier environment, 
the plant appeared well-behaved and looked quite attractive. 

But the other thing I made note of from my vantage point 
was a most beautiful deep ruby red crepe myrtle
growing on a higher terrace:

I don't recall ever seeing crepe myrtle trees 
(also spelled crape myrtle) 
 in Missouri when I was a kid,
so when I first came to Norfolk in the mid-1970s,
the hundreds and hundreds of watermelon-colored crepe myrtle trees 
that lined the streets captured my attention in a big way.
They were stunning. By some estimates, 
there are as many as 40,000 crepe myrtle trees planted 
in public medians in Norfolk alone. 
And that doesn't include the thousands decorating other Tidewater cities.

One reason the crepe myrtles are so popular 
is the smoothness of their ruddy trunks;
the sculptural quality they take on during the winter;
and the profusion of blooms in pale pink, 
violet, oyster white, watermelon, and deep red 
that begin in late June and reach full vibrancy and fullness in July.
Here are a few pretties blooming around the Shire:


oyster white:

lipstick pink:

my favorite, watermelon:

According to Steve Bender, in the online article 
"Southern Gardening: Crepe Myrtles in Charleston"
published in Southern Living Magazine,
crepe myrtles are indigenous to China
but first arrived in Charleston, South Carolina 
in the 1780s by way of Britain.
Fortunately for us, the crepe myrtle thrives in our hot, sunny summers.

Yet planted too near driveways their falling blossoms are quite a nuisance,
covering pavement and automobile alike. 
While I don't care for tracking spent blossoms 
and tree debris into my house,
I have to admit, when recently I saw
a car covered in fuschia crepe myrtle blossoms 
it made my heart stir just a little
because it looked like someone had tossed bright pink confetti 
all over the trunk and rear window
in some kind of summer celebration.
Of course, the intensity of one's delight 
would depend on whose car got covered,
but there's no denying the frilly petals bring gladness
wherever they are.

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