As summer weather heats up for the Fourth of July weekend many local summer flowering trees are heating up with their flower displays. In in the last week or two local crape myrtle trees have exploded with flowers from white to pink and lots of other colors too. You may think I rate crape myrtles too high on the list of flowering trees and you are probably right. It is even raining pink at my house this week.

With crape myrtles currently not butchered as much to keep them small, overall tree beauty and flowering are more consistent year to year. For years I had nightmares about ragged, butchered crape myrtles coming alive on Halloween nights to get their revenge on humans.

As I stood in the shade of four beautiful, 2-foot tall pink crape myrtles I could also admire the beautiful bark patterns on the tree trunks and branches. As hot as it was this week I was also grateful for the shade provided by my trees. I had pruned them lightly over the past 5-6 years to develop a good tree-shaped form. Never topped them or cut them back severely and they are showing appreciation for this with beautiful graceful bark, branches and now pink flowers.

Every once in a while I drive by an old crape myrtle that is full of sprouts, misshapen branches and lots of stump sprouts. I firmly believe that when you severely cut tops out of crape myrtles (butcher), they get revenge for this by producing ugly sprouts that you have to look at all winter long when the leaves are off the trees.

One other admirable characteristic of most crape myrtles is that they grow in many tough sites. Whether it is a 4 foot by 4 foot cutout in the sidewalk or street side they tolerate some of the worst heat and dry conditions much better than the over-planted red maples we see everywhere struggling in the July-August heat.

Now I will admit that crape myrtles are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They will put out sprouts at times when you least expect it and they can sprout from long roots running away from the parent plant. It was unusual to see a 3-foot blooming crape myrtle sprout coming up in my Blueberry patch twenty feet from the nearest tree. I will attempt to dig it out this winter and plant it in a better location. Finally, my biggest reminder to myself is don’t plant any more crape myrtles within thirty feet of your swimming pool. As the flowers fade and fall the wind is always blowing toward the pool. At least they don’t bloom all summer. Have a great Fourth of July weekend.

Fall Master Gardener class informational meetingWe will have a free informational meeting from 6-8 p.m. July 15 at the Extension office in Greenwood for those who might be interested in the class. Fall classes will begin in mid-August and run until mid-November on Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. Members of the LMGA will be on hand to answer questions about their association and provide information on the partial scholarship process for the class for those interested. Cost of the class is $300.

If you plan to attend the information meeting, contact me at 864-223-3264 X 116 or email jmhodge@clemson.edu so I can prepare handout information. Call our office to pre-register or with any questions: 864-223-3264.

James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.