I don’t know if Robert Burns – he of “the best-made plans…” fame – was a gardener, but sometimes I feel as if more things are “going agley” than usual. That is how I recently came to have three baby-size dwarf Lagerstroemias rather than the teenagers I’d originally planned on. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to photographically chart their growing-up rate for the next year or two.
There’s a bit of backstory, as usual. In June 2019, a gardening friend sent me a gallon-size (about 9”-12” high top growth) dwarf crape myrtle ‘Cherry Mocha’ as a gift. This cultivar is part of the Barista Series of nine similarly small (mature height 2-3 ft) Lagerstroemias patented by Walters Gardens; they have names like ‘Dark Roast’, ‘Sweet Macchiato’, and ‘Like a Latte’ which is the only white flowered one; the others are all various shades of pink to red. After seeing the color of Cherry Mocha last summer, I decided that I wanted another one and also two of the white.
Of course, cultivar trends have moved on and this year I could find only one nursery (New Blooms) selling any of the Barista series online. Luckily, the ones that I wanted were among them. The downside is that the plants are much smaller than I was hoping/planning to find; indeed, smaller than any shrub – dwarf or otherwise – that I’ve ever put into any of my gardens before. How long, I wondered, will it take for them to catch up to the size of their taller-than-a-foot cousin from 2019, in Zone 7 garden conditions?
So, this post will be a ‘baby book’ of sorts for these three dwarf crape myrtle babies, with photos and measurements added every month during the growing season. The photos below were taken on April 27, 2021; the next update will be on June 1st and then at the start of each month thereafter. They will get full sun all day; there is no automatic irrigation; plants get watered by yours truly, as and when needed. Like the other crape myrtles, these will not be fed or otherwise pampered or mollycoddled; my garden is run on Darwinian principles!
Like a Latte (a)
The larger of the two Like a Latte was put into the bed on the east side of the house’s front walkway. Of course, ‘larger’ is relative, as you can see by the photos to which I’ve added the plant’s dimensions: 6” tall and 4” at its widest point.
Three days after taking the first round of photos, I decided to move all three of the small crape myrtles into the same planting bed (which is where the original 2019 plant still is.) By June 1st, it has managed to add a whopping one inch of height in the past month, although only a skootch (highly technical measurement term, there) in width.
All of these update photos were taken on July 5th. Sadly, the neighborhood rabbit appears to have taken some nips off the top growth of this plant, which means it’s now down to only 5.5” tall. The width has increased slightly, to 7 inches.
Cherry Mocha (b)
In contrast, my second Cherry Mocha is essentially half the walkway-Latte’s size at 3.5” tall and 2” wide. I have some qualms about its survivability.
Well… a half inch is better than no height increase at all… I guess. As for increased width? Zero, zilch, nada as of June 1st.
As of July 5th, this plant is no longer the shortest of the three…but not by much! It is now 5.75” high, but also the narrowest at 4.75” wide. It has taken nine weeks to get to that width from the 2” span it had at the end of April.
Like a Latte (b)
This is the shortest baby at only 2.5” high and has one horizontally-oriented branch that extends out for three inches. I hope it eventually develops a decent leader because I was not intending to have a ground-cover effect from this plant.
On June 1st this one really did surprise me because it literally doubled its (admittedly diminutive) size in the same 31 days: It’s now 5” high and almost 7” wide, which means it is definitely taking the whole ‘prostrate/groundcover’ growth habit thing seriously. This does not particularly thrill me. After this plant gets some size to it, relocation will probably be in order but it can stay where it is for the foreseeable future, given how tiny it was to begin with.
The groundcover-tendency continues with this plant, as it added only one inch of height but another 3” horizontally, bringing the overall size to 6” x 10” as of July 5th.
My next measurements and photos will be taken on or about August 1st.
An early-July side note: The same friend who originally sent me the first ‘Cherry Mocha’ went to the same nursery about two weeks ago and noticed they had two flats of ‘Brew Ha Ha’ which is another cultivar in this same series. It has dark blue-green leaves and flowers described as bright pink. Just like last year, they were bushy 10″ x 12″ plants in 1-gallon pots for $12.99, so he bought and sent me one. I put it into a different bed that is planned to have a succession of flowers in pink and in white from April to July-August. I was pleased to see that, again like the 2019 ‘Cherry Mocha’, the 2021 ‘Brew Ha Ha’ had a well developed root system that filled the gallon pot without being rootbound, and survived its Priority Mail journey from the Southwest to the Northeast with no ill effects despite the 90F+ weather for part of the way.
(Speaking of ‘garden babies’, I know I had been sadly remiss in reporting on my three seedling tree peonies (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) who are now definitely out of babyhood at this point. You can find an update on their progress here!)