Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back from North Carolina

First plant impressions of North Carolina in no particular order - the ubiquity of kudzu, large stands of white pine and crape/crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia).

We visited Raleigh for a few days several years ago and I don't remember seeing much of the above plants but not being an especially observant coot, I could have missed seeing many obvious things.

What was striking was the size of the crepe myrtles and their use as small trees rather than shrubs. Our neighbor, several houses down the block has a very dark pink crepe myrtle that's almost as large as some we've seen in NC but the plant is still grown as a shrub albeit a very large one with many trunks and branches close to the ground. The ones in NC are grown as small trees with fewer trunks. And the attractive bark is exposed by removing all the lower branches which reminds me of the strawberry guava trunks with its attractive mottling.

In the first photo, you can see a woman in the lower left of the photo to give you some idea of the size of the two crepe myrtles in the photo. All of the photos were taken in the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville but almost every yard seemed to have at least a crepe myrtle if not two or more. Please click the photos to enlarge.

We even saw crepe myrtles planted as embankment and median divider plants along the interstate highways. I guess they use them for this purpose because they are rather drought tolerant and seemed to be thriving despite a prolonged dry spell. I was rather surprised that most were still blooming. The pink specimen we have, and we are much further north so the flowering began weeks later, is almost finished blooming yet most of the NC crepe myrtles are in full flower.


Anonymous Pam/Digging said...

I chuckled as I read this post and looked at the pics, Ki, because I'm not used to seeing crepe myrtles examined so closely, nor to hearing anyone exclaim over their use as trees. They are common as dirt here in Austin, where, as you noticed in NC, everyone seems to have at least one if not two in their yard.

I considered planting one of these beautiful trees in my small front garden but couldn't bring myself to do it because they're so commonplace. I've since wondered if that wasn't a vain, foolish decision because the tree I chose instead, a vitex, is pretty only about 1/3 of the year while the crepe myrtle is pretty all year long. But darn it, I just couldn't plant something that every one of my neighbors has!

9:41 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Pam, I chuckled at your comment.
I sound so parochial eh! I visited Austin about 7 years ago and wasn't struck by the ubiquity of crepe myrtles but I didn't drive around residential neighborhoods very much so I may have missed them.

The vitex is such a striking tree in bloom and has a pretty shape. It would be difficult to choose between it and a crepe myrtle. I have the same aversion to the commonplace plants everyone else has but some things are just too nice to be without. We bought another crepe myrtle last year in spite of having to battle japanese beetles which love to eat the flowers but this was a striking new cultivar with red and white flowers which luckily is just blooming now when there are no japanese beetles. Now that's something your neighbor's wouldn't have...yet?

Thanks for the comment.

4:28 AM  
Blogger DeeMom said...

I have always had a fondness for Crepe Myrtle. I have tried it here several times, ALAS and alack to no avail YET! Beautiful pictures and glad you all had a good time.

6:25 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Crape myrtles look very exotic to me! The ones in the first picture are huge. I love the colour ... wish that I can grow them here.

It sounds as if you had a good holiday!

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi deemom,
I'm surprised you aren't able to grow crepe myrtles. I guess they're kinda iffy in our zone 6 and our first one had a bit of difficulty getting established in the first two years but it's doing fine now. The one we bought last year was planted in a more protected spot and is doing just fine.


Hi Kate,
It was good to get away but towards the end of the trip we were getting pretty tired of staying in motels.

The crepe myrtles in NC were gorgeous especially when the beautiful trunks were exposed. It's unfortunate that you can't grow them in Regina. Thanks for stopping by.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Your post gave me a chuckle, too, Ki, when you were surprised that they were trees instead of large shrubs. They come in an array of sizes and colors and can either act as accents or become genuine shade trees.

Crepe myrtles were exotic when we visited the Carolinas from IL decades ago, and I so longed to grow them. I still like them, but now realize that they're practically weeds. You can cut them down and dig them up, but they just keep coming back.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

7:10 AM  
Blogger Gotta Garden said...

You are funny, Ki! Down here, we see them in all sizes...the last few years, the big thing has been the introduction of dwarf varieties, more shrub like. Red and white blooms...sounds very nice!

Having both vitex and cm, I vote for the cm...gotta love something that can grow in the middle of highways and in parking gives three months of blooms!

It's great fun to get out and see what grows in other places.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Annie, Since we can barely grow them here the cm trees were surprising especially when I saw the woman standing next to the pink one in the photo. The cm must be about 30 feet tall if the woman was 5 feet in height!

We had a rough two years trying to nurture our pink cm but it is thriving now with little care. We don't ever water it but even when the other plants around it are drooping the cm remains unaffected. A great drought tolerant plant. Sounds like it's a weed in Texas!

Hi Gotta Garden,
I thought our cm with red, white and pink flowers would be a shrub but not so. It grew about 3 feet just this year.

I gotta get out more often. I sound like a hick.

6:40 PM  

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