says summer like the 100 days of flowers on crape
myrtles that line streets and dot yards in Southern
southeastern Virginia, the crape myrtle has a long and
storied history, and July is its peak bloom time.
1922, the Garden Club of Norfolk persuaded the Norfolk
City Council to name the crape myrtle Norfolk’s
official tree, according to Brian O’Neil, director of
horticulture at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk.
bloom period coincides with summer flowering roses,
hydrangeas, perennials such as daylilies and cannas, and
other plants, making a truly floriferous garden
composition," says O’Neil.
blooming trees draw your eye upward into the blue summer
sky, allowing the viewer to take in the entire garden
setting from the ground on up."
with crape myrtle love, Norfolk Botanical Garden’s
first Director Fred Heutte proposed and organized the
first Norfolk Crape Myrtle Festival in 1951, in honor of
the city’s official flower. That festival no longer
exists, but McDonald Garden Center, in Hampton Roads,
Va., has sponsored a similar July event for the past 33
crape myrtles, members of the Lagerstroemia indica
family, are still revered as summer’s spectacular tree
in cold hardy gardening zones that go into Zone 6 —
some say Zone 5 for well-established roots. Northern
folks who see the plants on southern trips have been
known to plant them in large pots and winter them in
crape myrtles are showy, they can also be fragrant,
especially older species, according to O’Neil. There
is a size to fit every growing space because the various
cultivars range from groundcovers less than three feet
tall to majestic stand-alone trees 35 feet tall.
can see more than 400 crape myrtles in various sizes and
colors at Norfolk Botanical Garden —
. In 2014, the collection was certified as a national
collection of Lagerstroemia by the North American Plant
Collections Consortium, a program managed by the
American Public Garden Association, according to O’Neil.
are the only national collection of crape myrtle in the
nation," he says.
the large number of varieties available, selecting a
crepe myrtle is easy, according to Jake VanDyke, a buyer
at McDonald Garden Center in Hampton, Va.
you must identify what size plant you want — shrub,
small tree or large tree," he says.
select the variety and color that most appeals to you
from among the options in that size category."
crape myrtle will flower better and longer if you plant
it in a spot that gets lots of sun throughout the day,
after the tree is planted, fertilize it and continue to
crape myrtles are rooted in, they are extremely drought
tolerant, but when first planted, they will need regular
watering," he says.
best crape myrtles
Garden Center suggests these crape myrtles for home
Tuscarora: Broad, vase-shaped tree, growing up to 25
feet tall and wide, bearing watermelon-red flowers. One
of the longest blooming varieties. Spectacular peeling
bark; red-orange fall color.
Dynamite: Upright tree, growing up to 20 feet tall and
wide; deep red flowers; red-orange fall color.
Natchez: Vase-shaped tree, growing up to 30 feet tall
and wide. Pure white flowers; red-orange fall color. One
of the longest blooming varieties. Bark peels to a
beautiful cinnamon color.
Vase-shaped tree, growing up to 25 feet tall and wide.
Light lavender flowers; red-orange fall color. One of
the longest blooming varieties. Bark peels to a
beautiful chestnut color.
Catawba:Upright tree, growing up to 15 feet tall and
wide. Deep purple flowers; red-orange fall color.
Tonto – Compact, rounded tree, growing up to 12 feet
tall and wide. Dark fuchsia flowers; bright maroon fall
Ebony & Ivory (new):Small tree, growing 12 feet tall
and eight feet wide. Intense black leaves contrast with
pure white flowers.
Ebony Flame (new): Small tree, growing 12 feet tall and
eight feet wide. Intense black leaves contrast with
bright red flowers.
Princess Holly Ann (new): Compact, upright shrub-type,
growing four feet tall. Cherry red flowers; purplish-red
Princess Lyla (new) – Mounding, low-growing
shrub-type, growing one- to two-feet tall and wide.
Light pink flowers; gold fall color. Great for beds and