Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
August, 2006
Regional Report

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Crape myrtles adorn southern landscapes with over 3 months of bloom and provide winter interest with their smooth exfoliating bark.

Small Flowering Trees Are Perfect for Modern Landscapes

I recall when a normal lot size was quite large, leaving room for a number of giant spreading trees. Now lots have shrunk to such a small size that you can almost reach out your window to close your neighbor's blinds. A growing number of people are moving to smaller properties such as garden homes, townhomes, or other tight areas without an expanse to accommodate a large tree.

A small space is no need to forgo the enjoyment that trees can bring. In fact we have many great small flowering trees that are ideal for such confined areas. While a small flowering tree makes a wonderful specimen plant, I also like to combine several in a group planting. Groupings are nice because they add interest and can extend the blooming season for many months.

Small trees can serve many useful functions, such as shading a west window, lining a driveway, forming a living fence along a property line, providing a focal point to a patio or entry courtyard, and providing a little shade for a poolside sitting spot. They can also provide a light shade to give understory plants a break from the blistering summer sun or serve as understories themselves peering out from the edge of a larger tree's shadow. Here are a few of my favorites.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is perhaps the king of small flowering trees in the south. We are all quite familiar with this wonderful plant, with its many bloom colors and extended bloom period of three months or more. When purchasing a crape myrtle please keep two things in mind. First of all decide ahead of time how large you want it to be. It is unnecessary to butcher a crape into a smaller size than it is genetically programmed to be. Second, choose a variety that promises powdery mildew resistance. Most of these have Native American Indian names, but check with someone who knows before investing your money in a crape myrtle variety for your landscape.

There are many other wonder small flowering trees to choose from. Depending on your southern location, be it east or west, some to consider include deciduous magnolias, redbuds, dogwoods, American smoke tree, fringe tree, desert willow, rusty blackhaw viburnum, flowering pear, a number of different hawthorns, Texas mountain laurel, ornamental peach and plum, loquat, silver bell, snowbell, Jerusalem thorn, anacacho orchid tree, and several types of acacia.

With so many great options to choose from and the fall planning season just around the corner, now is a great time to make plans to add a few small flowering trees to your landscape.

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