The Crape Myrtle

crape-myrtleCrape Myrtles are a popular choice for gardeners because of their low maintenance, beautiful colors and extremely long bloom season, lasting nearly three and a half months.

Crape Myrtles are most popular in the south, gaining the nickname the lilac of the south, but are enjoyed by gardeners across the country. Their scientific term, Lagerstroemia, was coined in 1759 in order to honor Magnus von Lagerstroem, an avid naturalist. The common name in America, Crape Myrtle, is derived from the crape-like appearance of the flower and the resemblance of the foliage to the real myrtle, Myrtus Communis. This week we are featuring a hardy Crape Myrtle tree with incredible huge ruby red blooms without even a hint of pink- ‘Dynamite’ – – the truest red of any Crape Myrtle tree.

Developed by Oaklahoma’s Dr. Carl Whitcomb in 1998, ‘Dynamite’ produces abundant clusters of absolutely spectacular deep red flowers from crimson buds they will enliven your garden from mid summer until autumn. The blooms can reach 15 inches long and of course have the crape paper look that we love.

The foliage starts as a deep burgundy in the spring and changes into a dark green by the end of summer. The leaves are very large, semi-glossy very thick and mildew resistant. In the fall the foliage turns from orange to red. ‘Dynamite’ exfoliates it’s old gray bark to reveal the new light brown smooth bark underneath. Plant as a specimen tree; prune into a large multi-stemmed shrub, or plant several in a row to create a unique privacy hedge.

Planting and Care

‘Dynamite’ has a very expansive and upright growth habit and matures to a height of 20 feet. It prefers to be placed in full sun with well-drained soil and good air circulation. Dynamite requires little maintenance and does best when it is not pruned. It is also drought, disease and insect resistant once it is established.

  • Plant 15 feet apart in well-drained soil.
  • Prefers full sun in an area with good air circulation and good soil drainage.
  • Water regularly until established.
  • Hardy in Zones 6-9 (protect the first winter in Zone 6).
  • Fertilize with Plant-Tone and Kelp Meal in early spring.
  • When necessary, prune in spring just as the new leaves emerge

The apple pie of shrubs

dwarf korean lilac
dwarf korean lilac

When you choose a lilac you are planting a shrub that is part of our American heritage – some have even called the lilac the “apple pie of shrubs.” Thomas Jefferson planted lilacs at Monticello and lilacs greeted guests as they entered George Washington’s flower garden at Mount Vernon. Poet Walt Whitman’s elegy to Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” evokes an image of a lilac bush that may be familiar to many:

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break

French and Dutch colonist first introduced lilacs to the United States, carrying them during their long journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. Lilacs soon found themselves all over North America, arriving by saddlebags and coach. Today there are over 2,000 named varieties of lilacs thanks to many industrious and passionate breeders all over the world. Our feature plant this week is the Dwarf Korean Lilac – the most useful of all the lilacs, and Alan’s favorite of all the shrubs we grow. It is easy to grow and maintain, making a beautiful and welcome addition to your garden.

The Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri Pablibin)
The Dwarf Korean Lilacs’ parent, the Syringa meyeri, is named after Frank Meyer who discovered it in a garden in Beijing, China in 1909 and sent cuttings home to the United States. Many lilacs are offspring of the Syringa meyeri, but the palabin Dwarf Korean Lilac is the smallest and most delightful. The clean, dark green foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the exquisite powerfully fragrant, lavender pink florets that will cover the dense bush from head to toe. Expect it to bloom in May-June, with lighter rebloom in later summer and fall, extending the season and allowing you to enjoy its beauty and fragrance twice during the year. Foliage turns bright yellow in autumn.

Unlike other common lilacs, the Dwarf Korean Lilac blooms profusely at an early age and is not susceptible to powdery mildew. Expect it to grow four to five feet high and wide, the perfect size for a perennial border, foundation planting or shrub border foreground. No matter where the Dwarf Korean Lilac is planted in your garden, it is sure to be a standout year after year.

Planting and Care

The Dwarf Korean Lilac is one tough plant, a real survivor. Over ten years ago we planted some in wooden planter boxes that were fabricated over a black top parking lot in full sun. These planter boxes never get any supplemental water, only what mother nature provides. Every year the lilacs bloom profusely, hold their leaves all summer without browning, rebloom in the fall and never suffer any winter die back. After the drought of 2002, I expected the lilacs to be totally dead. When I drove by in the spring of 2003 they were in full bloom, just as they have been every year.

  • For best results, plant in early spring.
  • Lilacs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Plant in good, well-drained soil.
  • Water regularly until established and during the summer.
  • Prune old blooms away immediately after flowering to encourage more blossoms.
  • Fertilize with Bulb-Tone at planting and again in the spring.

Origami, a meditative art

origami-flowerOrigami come from the root ori, meaning folding and kami, meaning paper. It is a 1700 Japanese folk art of folding a traditional square piece of origami paper into an intricate sculpture. The most popular and well-known form is the crane. Customarily the paper cannot be cut or glued for it to be considered true origami.

There is not much evidence to trace origami back to early China, Germany or Spain because paper decomposes quickly but it is speculated that origami may have begun as early in those countries as it did in Japan. There is evidence that origami may have started in Europe as early as 1440 with small pieces here and there. By the 1600’s origami was being used in Shinto weddings and as a gift exchange between Samurai warriors. Origami has become a more widely spread and popular form of art now and has gained popularity in the recent 1900’s.

There are many different types of origami practices now. Action, Modular, Wet-folding, Pureland and Origami Tessellations. Action origami is origami that moves when it is completed. This is allowed to be the result of inflation, kinetic energy, or perhaps a limp that moves when another part is pressed upon. Modular is a result of putting many identical pieces together to create an ending shape of some sort. Wet-folding is used when making curves rather than sharp folds and angles. Pureland has restrictions such as only one fold at a time and no complex folds are allowed. This helps with inexperienced folders. Last is Origami Tessellations. Tessellations can be made from anything that holds a crease including fabric such as silk.

Meditation is a vital part of many cultures now and origami has made it’s way into the meditative practices. It’s common-knowledge that effective meditation is good for blood pressure, longevity and depression. It can restore energy and ability to cope with everyday difficulties and stresses. Self-awareness can help a person become more at peace as well as offering an escape to the stresses of life. Origami is a way to express yourself in becoming one with the hills and valleys that are created when making folds. It takes focus on the folds rather than on outside stress. It is a very methodical art and requires great precision as fold after fold is made to become something else. Practice will allow your muscles to move without conscious thought as the quiet and the peace seep in. The end product is a beautiful sculpted masterpiece that may very well symbolize yourself when completed.

Origami Bonsai.

Origami Bonsai, is a book created by the Origami artist, Benjamin John Coleman. It is a selection of projects to enable people with the skills to create little wonders of art.

Bonsai Comments Competition

comments_competitionEvery month we will be giving away some great prizes for subscribers to our eZine and readers of the web site.

Monthly Subscribers Competition.

In the April we are giving away for our eZine subscribers the following:

  1. 5 copies of ‘Bonsai 101′ by Harry Tomlinson
  2. 2 copies of ‘Practical Bonsai’ by Ken Norman
  3. 1 copy of the ‘Bonsai School’ by Craig  Cousins
  4. 2 copies of the ‘Damascus Acoustic Meditation‘ CD.

How to enter?

Send me a short story by email on why you love Bonsai, the good and bad habits of your tree, does your favourite tree have a nick name and a picture of your lover, eh tree! The best and most amusing entries will win. (Oh, these will be published in the May eZine and on the web site)

Bonsai Ireland Readers Competition.

So for this we are offering a specially signed copy of one of Craig Cousins Bonsai books.

How to enter?

This is easy, all you have to do is submit as a comment your best Bonsai tips for beginners under the Serissa Bonsai post and the comment with the most votes by the end of April will win. Couldn’t be easier. (You can only vote for yourself once, Sorry!!!)

So get cracking and have fun!!!

April Bonsai Update

favourite_treeThe April newsletter was just sent to all subscribers, aptly named ‘April showers, no snow please’ after the the snow showers we had over the past few days. It should disappear by morn!

In this months newsletter we are offering two competitions, one for members offering a selection of Bonsai books and meditation CD’s from Damascus Acoustic Meditations. For non-members we have a great prize if you are a collector of Bonsai books and that is a specially signed copy of one Craig Cousins Bonsai books. To enter see competition page for more details.

Other news:

A prominent Irish Bonsai collector passed away last September and I have been asked by his family to sell off his collection of over 200 trees. The range of trees is mainly outdoor trees, including a selection of Yamadori. More details to follow in the May newsletter.

Bonsai Activities for April:

Your main focus of activity for April is trimming. As spring has finally started the growth on your Bonsai tree will become elongated and out of form from your preferred design. Trim back the leaf growth and remove unwanted suckers from the base of the tree. The following video will show some pruning techniques as well as showing you how to create a Bonsai from nursery stock.

The subject tree is a Juniper. For more information on Juniper for beginners see the following post.