No need to murder this one

Heard the expression “crepe murder” made in reference to crepe myrtles? In case you haven’t, the cruel and at the same time sarcastic insinuation is made when crepe myrtles are pruned to bare limbs making them look like smooth, shiny stumps, a practice not favored by horticulturists as it ruins the natural artistic growth of this popular summer-flowering small tree or a shrub, as the case might be.

Crepe myrtles are truly the pride and joy of our area; during the dead heat of summer, when most plants start to show signs of stress, standing tall loaded with flowers in pleasing colors, crepe myrtles grace our gardens, providing a festive look for backyard events few decorations can match. In fact, when we moved to our current home almost four decades back, crepe myrtles were one of the first plants we decided to grow; back then there were just a few varieties to select from, which made it easier as we were fairly ignorant at various aspects of landscaping. Years later, however, when I saw a specimen of Lagerstroemia x ‘Chickasaw’ in our local garden center, I was delighted beyond words.

Lagerstroemia x ‘Chickasaw’ is a dwarf or a miniature crepe myrtle as one might prefer to call it. Plants grow barely to a height of about two feet with an equal spread, therefore small enough to be grown in a container or as border plants. And, one thing is for sure: since this cultivar grows slowly and maintains a rounded shape over the years, chances of committing a “murder” are almost none!

Plants like to be grown in well-drained soil where ample sun is available. Our solitary plant basks in the hot afternoon sun asking for practically no care except for water in the absence of rain and an occasional dose of Plant-tone. Once in a while, I prune a stray branch or two to keep the rounded shape intact.

Like the “regular-sized” cousins, ‘Chickasaw’ is also deciduous and, when spring arrives, it is such a pleasure to bend almost all the way down to watch the small leaves unfold. In summer, the pint-sized shrub bears clusters of pinkish flowers which are also much smaller in size as compared to other crepe myrtles. Fall brings an attractive foliage color, making ‘Chickasaw’ a good investment for a small space.  And, because of the size, the leaves and flowers come in quite handy in making small or miniature flower arrangements.        

Small indeed can be beautiful!


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