Beauty on the Cheap

   Written by on July 24, 2014 at 11:13 am

I really need to learn to walk with my head up rather than looking down at the ground all the time. In my defense, however, I do find cash money on the ground occasionally while I’m walking with New Dog. Change, folding money…in my pocket it goes.

logo - a walkToday, while walking and looking down at the ground, I noticed a couple of crape myrtles struggling to grow up through some dense shrubs that had been pruned into a tight ball of stems. Bear in mind I was on private property at the time and that’s the only thing that stopped me from grabbing a shovel and trying to dig up the myrtles and take them home. Never mind that it’s not exactly the right time of year to do this; they just looked like they needed to be rescued from their choking environment.

Propagating crape myrtles is not that difficult, I’m told. The easiest method is to wait till November and take eight-inch hardwood cuttings and put them in a pot filled with good potting soil or well-drained garden soil. About an inch of the cutting should be left above the level of the soil. These may be left outside, but be sure to protect them from freezing. Keep them watered and when new growth appears, move them into the sun until it’s time to plant in the spring. Eazy-peazy.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that crape myrtles send up shoots around the bottom of the tree. From these you can take 4 to 6-inch softwood cuttings any time during the growing season – May to July. Dip the cut ends in a rooting hormone and then plant in a pot filled with well-drained potting soil. Keep the cuttings misted to prevent them from drying out before they root (three to four weeks). Rooted cuttings can be transplanted into large pots to continue growing in size and strength before planting in your yard.

I have a small attack every year when I see what town workers do to crape myrtles that grow along the streets. The term “crape murder” was coined in a Southern Living magazine article and it’s good to know I’m not the only one who cringes when I see myrtles topped or cut back to chest height so the limbs don’t interfere with parking cars. When trees are cut like this, dozens of sprouts or “witches brooms” form below the cuts. Where these sprouts emerge is the weakest part of the tree and susceptible to damage and disease. Recovery is drastic but effective. The tree should be cut down to within one or two inches of the ground in early March. New sprouts will emerge in clusters of growth. All the energy from the roots will be concentrated in new buds. These buds will burst and new growth will appear. Select the strongest three or five of these and remove the others to let the strongest grow. Continue to selectively eliminate unwanted growth to achieve the shape you want.

Gotta love crape myrtles in the summer!

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