Photo by Meda Kessler
The name Lagerstroemia probably doesn’t ring any bells. But the stage name for this landscape star has everyone in the know nodding approval: crape myrtle. An Asian native that is now the most Southern lady of plants, the crape myrtle is the flora world’s velvet hammer: Showy in the heat with only a moderate thirst, they remain attractive year-round no matter what the season throws at them. Even the tree bark, which resembles cinnamon sticks, is artful, peeling loose like puzzle pieces. We know some people disdain them as overpromoted shrubs, but we note that crape myrtles can be pruned into sculptural trees that live long lives and never complain. Sure, the hardiness is the reason for their ubiquitousness, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be surprisingly beautiful when you most need them to be. How are your other flowering plants holding up in this summer’s convection oven? We look to the lush magenta, white, lavender, fuchsia and scarlet blooms of crape myrtles and say, thank you for your service.