Crape Myrtle: Colorful Blooms for your Late Summer Garden!

After many years of hybridizing and the production of more cold hardy varieties, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) can be successfully grown here in the Northeast. These showy trees are a personal favorite of mine due to their beautiful long lasting blooms that start at the end of the summer and last well into Fall, a bloom period of approximately 120 days!   Just as other flowering trees and shrubs are reaching the end of their bloom cycle the stately Crape Myrtle ‘Lagerstroemia indica’ starts its spectacular show. I often use these beautiful trees as an eye catching element in my designs as they serve nicely as an anchor plant in a foundation planting or as a focal point in an island bed or backyard garden.

(Photo: Lagerstromeia indica ‘Sioux’)

There are many varieties of this beautiful tree ranging in size from ‘Pocomoke’ and ’Chickasaw’, which are dwarf varieties, topping off at approximately 5 feet to ‘Natchez’ (White),‘Tuscarora’ (Coral Pink),‘Muskogee’ (Lavender) and ‘Catawba’ (Purple) ranging at a height between 12-20 feet. A personal favorite of mine is Crape Myrtle ’Sioux’, a medium variety that ranges in height to approximately 12-15 feet. The medium-pink flowers of the ‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle begin late in July and last well into October and are an elegant display not to be missed. Three other varieties of Lagerstroemia worth mentioning are ‘Tonto’ and ‘Dynamite’, both known for their vibrant red flowers and medium height of 12-15 feet and ‘Zuni’ (Purple) at a smaller 8-9 feet in stature.

Lagerstromeia Crape Myrtle Muskogee

(Photo: Lagerstroemia indica ‘Muskogee’)

HARDINESS AND GROWING CONDITIONS: Lagerstroemia are a hardy to zones 7-9 and are “deer resistant”, meaning that deer will most likely avoid them in their diet. They grow best in full sunlight in a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5. These trees require little to no pruning but can be pruned to maintain a more compact shape or to remove any dead branches that may result from a harsh winter.  If you are going to prune wait until late winter or early spring after the last frost. The plants are dormant in winter and any flowering occurs on new growth so pruning will encourage new flower producing branches. Remove any dead branches, suckers growing from the base or weak twiggy branches and allow strong leader branches to keep the framework of the tree.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’

TRANSPLANTING:  If you are planning on transplanting your Crape Myrtle tree the best time to transplant in the northeast is in mid April or mid September through mid October.  Roots need time to become established before the summer heat or winter cold set in. Dig a hole slightly wider than the root ball and make sure the tree sits at the height of the surface or slightly above.  Apply a layer of mulch around the tree to protect the roots and keep well watered until established.  Crape Myrtle are somewhat sensitive to cold so there may be some branch die back in the first season until the plant becomes well established.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

Depending on the preference of the grower Crape Myrtle can be planted as either a multi-trunk or singular-trunk form and can be displayed as either a shrub or tree in the landscape.  An important note worth mentioning is that Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) are among the last plants to push out their new growth so if they appear to be dead at the end of winter going into spring just give them some time to come into their glory. Since they are later to push out their leaves they do benefit from an early spring feeding of a high phosphorus-lower nitrogen 5-10-5 formula to promote good foliage growth and an abundance of blooms in July-August. Crape Myrtles are not susceptible to insects or disease but as in any landscape planting they should be monitored and properly maintained to keep them in good health.

If you are looking for a long blooming, deer resistant, low maintenance tree to add color to your garden then Crape Myrtle may be the tree for you. I for one would highly recommend this beautiful plant as a welcome addition to any formal or informal landscape.
For more gardening tips and design ideas, visit my books on Amazon:
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Book Announcement! My First Published Book!

FotorCreated BOOK PROMO 2 600 pixAfter two years of working on my book I am excited to announce that it is finally published! A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer is a comprehensive guide to gardening in plant hardiness zones 3-9.  My goal for the book is to share information on a number of gardening topics based on my experiences as a landscape designer over the years.BOOK PHOTO

A Little Bit About the Book:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening is a comprehensive guide of valuable information on plants hardy in a range of zones from 3-9, and gardening techniques backed up by my own personal experiences as a professional landscape designer, along with answers to frequently asked questions. Learn about landscape design principles, butterfly gardening, deer resistant plants, long blooming perennials, globe and weeping evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs, native plantings, shade gardening and more. Whether you are a novice or experienced gardener, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening will help you to create your own dream garden. Come along on my journey into the world of gardening!

A Little Bit About the Author:

Lee Miller is a professional landscape/garden designer involved in the horticultural industry since 1996. Having started a gardening blog in 2010, she is the author of over 150 articles on general gardening, landscape design principles, gardening tips, planting, pruning, garden maintenance, feature plants and more. Her published book, “A Guide to Northeastern Gardening”, is an accumulation of information touching on a wide variety of gardening topics, all backed up by her own personal experiences.

Previews and further information are available on the following links:

Updated for 2016: Now in Amazon Softcover!

Amazon Kindle

Also here is a link to the full story behind the author and the book. I hope to share my gardening experiences with you!

As Always…Happy Gardening!

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.

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Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation: Get More Blooms from Your Dayliles

garden clean up 2

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation

It has been a busy Sunday afternoon in August with the summer temperatures starting to cool and a cooler than usual September in the forecast.  I took the time today to give the garden a face lift and rejuvenate some of my fading perennials. By the time late July and August roll around various perennials are starting to show signs of fall mode with yellowing and dying foliage as they are starting to go dormant.  Perennials such as daylily go dormant at the end of summer into fall but there are methods to extend the bloom time right into mid to late September.  With certain species of long blooming daylily such as ‘Stella D Oro’ there is a trick I learned initially by accident.

daylily rejuvenation

Daylily Rejuvenation-Growth Going Dormant

I had some late summer garden maintenance done a few years ago and the crew had cut the yellowing daylilies back to about four inches from the ground.  At first I was taken by surprise but within a couple of weeks I had brand new vibrant green foliage and blooms that lasted well into fall. From that time on I continued to follow this ritual of cutting back my lilies starting at the end of July and into mid-August so that I could enjoy constant blooms.  The procedure is quite simple and I stage the rejuvenation at different times for the various locations of lilies in my garden.  Starting at the end of July and into late August I carefully remove expired yellowed foliage on my perennial daylilies down to new growth which is approximately four to five inches above the ground.   I actually perform this by hand but you can also use pruning shears and if there are any blooms on the plant you can leave them to enjoy. This ritual of removing dead foliage stimulates the plant to produce healthy new leaves and blooms and also prevents the onset of fungal disease that can occur at this time of year with decaying foliage.

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies-Just Cut Back

I also remove the expired scapes (bloom bearing stalks) from the plants as soon as they turn brown throughout the entire season which stimulates new blooms.  The photograph on the left shows how the stalks should appear when you remove them. It is easy to know when this should be done since the stalks with seed heads will very easily pull out without any effort.  The photograph on the right shows newly cut foliage right after rejuvenation. Once your daylilies are cut back be sure they continue to receive watering.   In no time you will have plants that appear as they do in early spring bursting with beautiful new growth and flowers. Once the plants have had their final bloom into the fall allow the foliage to die completely back and then remove any decaying debris from around the plant and apply a thin layer of mulch.

rejuvenated 1 month ago

Rejuvenated Daylily After One Month

This method also works with other varieties of daylily with a shorter bloom time such as ‘Pardon Me’ and ‘Sammy Russell’ but should be performed in July after these plants are done blooming. Other perennials such a Salvia also benefit from a mid-late summer pruning which is explained in this article.  If you are looking to extend the enjoyment of your summer garden rejuvenation is a simple and quick process well worth the time for it will prolong your enjoyment of blooms well into fall.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Proper Mulching Technique and the Dangers of “VOLCANO MULCH”

volcano mulch

Volcano Mulching

Recently I have been noticing a rash of trees that have become victim to the dangers of “volcano mulching”.  Volcano mulching refers to the piling up of mulch around the base of trees causing moisture to build up around the trunk, rotting out the tree and leading to a slow death by suffocation due to lack of oxygen exchange to the roots.

mulch line

Photograph 2 (Mulch Line)

Proper mulching involves adding a protective layer of organic mulch approximately 2-4 inches thick, keeping the mulch about six inches away from the base of trees so to avoid build up.  Mulch has many advantages including the addition of organic matter to the soil, allowing moisture retention for the plant and helping as a weed barrier to keep weeds down as well as adding an attractive finishing touch to garden beds.

Signs of tree suffocation are indicated by a darkening of the trunk with patches of blacked spots going up the tree.  In Photograph 2 you can see where approximately six inches of mulch had been piled up on this tree causing the tree to already start rotting. When removing the mulch it should be to the level of the tree collar (where the base of the tree starts to flare out). Even routine mulching can gradually build up so it is recommended to remove some of the older mulch if necessary before applying a new fresh layer.  This tree should now be fine since the mulch was removed and the base of the tree will be allowed to heal and the health of the tree restored.

 As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Winter Damaged Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle-How to Treat

Winter Damage to Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle

This past winter has been recorded to be one of the worst for winter damage to foliage of plants in the past 25 years. I have witnessed winter damaged Hydrangea and Crape Myrtle on many properties I have visited and have been getting many inquiries as to how to remedy the damage that has occurred. Chances are that your plants will fully recover so I am passing on this useful information.

hydrangea winter die back

Hydrangea Winter Damage

If your hydrangea are sprouting new growth from the bottom only with no new sprouts on the upper stems and visible shoots on bare wood have a dark dried up appearance then they are not viable. To remedy cut back all dead wood down to where new growth is occurring.  If your variety of hydrangea blooms on old wood you may not get blooms this year but your hydrangea should fully recover.

crape myrtle winter damage

Crape Myrtle Winter Damage

In the case of Crape Myrtles most of them survived but have dead top growth. It is advisable to wait until the end of June/beginning of July to cut back branches to new growth in order to allow the plant to sprout as much new foliage as possible. Other plants showing winter damage besides hydrangea and crape myrtle include butterfly bush and roses.  Use the same practice to remove expired growth.

Butterfly Bush Winter Damage

Butterfly Bush Winter Damage

 Due to the unusually harsh winter plant growth is delayed by approximately two to three weeks this season.   New growth will have a slow start this spring but with some patience and proper care your plants should show full recovery.

  As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Four Season Fabulosity!

This is another fine post from Fine Foliage on foliage combinations for planters and some of these are my favorites so I had to share!

Fine Foliage

IMG_0585 I’m a lazy gardener – or at least I prefer to choose how much work to do rather than feeling overwhelmed by a ‘to do’ list. I suspect I’m not alone…………..

So here is a container for you that looks this good ALL YEAR! This would be a perfect combo on a shady porch where you can enjoy the lush foliage and see the seasonal changes. That’s right – even though all the plants here are evergreen they all change in some way during the year, either in color or because they have flowers. See the plant profiles below to see how they strut their stuff.

Clockwise from top;

Paprika coral bells(Heuchera) – spicy round leaves add a punch of heat to this combo. White flowers in spring combine with extra hot colors for a show stopping display. Zones 4-9

Silver dragon lily turf (Liriope spicata

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The Art of Layering

This is a wonderful post showing how combining foliage really is a form of art. I love your combinations and will be sharing this with my readers!

Fine Foliage

IMG_0486 Both Christina and I design container gardens as part of our businesses. We love what we do and we do something different every time! I was asked once if I ever got stuck for ideas and to be honest I never have. You see even if I find myself reaching for a few of my favorite plants (again) I know I’ll combine them in new ways. But there’s another design layer to consider; the context .

You see the container design is not an isolated entity but rather is part of a larger scene. Whether on a front porch or set within a vast garden, we have the opportunity to establish a relationship between the container garden and its surroundings.

That really came home to me as I watched noted photographer David Perry at a photo shoot in my garden recently. I had been asked to design ten containers for…

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