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. Each is in a different planting bed but all three locations 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 (in front walkway bed)
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.
Cherry Mocha (in bridge bed east)
In contrast, my second Cherry Mocha is essentially half the walkway-Latte’s size at 3.5” tall and 2” wide. It would doubtless meet a swift demise as a two-bite tasty snack for Abigail, the ravenous neighborhood rabbit, if I didn’t install plant-protective equipment around all of these after taking these photos!
Like a Latte (in patio bed #1)
The smaller Like a Latte went into the same planting bed as my original 2019 ‘Cherry Mocha’ which, depending on your point of view, might serve either as inspiration or intimidation! 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.
Temperatures hereabouts are only just starting to reliably sit in the 60sF during the day (with a few brief forays into the 70s) and the 40s-50s at night. This month (May) is when we can expect to see most days in the 70s and the 80s – which crapes supposedly require in order to push out any new growth worth mentioning – won’t become the norm until June. Although I don’t expect any of these little guys to even think about blooming this year, it’s worth noting that my 2019 ‘Cherry Mocha’ did not begin to flower until mid-August last year. That’s almost three weeks behind the two large crape myrtles that were here when I bought the house, but I also notice that it is beginning to leaf out already, whereas the two big ones are not bestirring themselves yet.
Speaking of ‘garden babies’, I know I have 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. I promise an update as my next post!