Flowers appear as early as May and continue through fall on Early Bird Purple crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrid). Plants grow a tidy 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, making them suitable for even the smallest yards. This small tree grows best in lean soil; too much fertilizer leads to lush leafy growth at the expense of flowers. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
Crape myrtle is a Southern classic, beloved for its endless show. Summer flowers, fall color and beautiful winter bark earn this beauty a place in every Southern yard. Flower colors vary, including ruby red, pastel lavender and snowy white. New varieties also offer wine-red foliage. Look for semi-dwarf varieties to find ones that qualify as small tree size. Examples include ‘Acoma’ (white, to 10 feet), ‘Delta Jazz’ (ruby red, to 10 feet), ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ (pink, to 12 feet), ‘Zuni’ (lavender, 6 to 10 feet) and Early Bird Lavender (6 feet). Semi-dwarf size: 6 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
"This is a kind of typical Charleston garden," says Peggy Rash, filled with classic Southern plants like crape myrtle, camellias, sweet bay magnolia, azaleas and tea olive as well as pittosporum, boxwoods and Italian cypress.
Straight ahead, a raised bluestone patio with plenty of chairs gives the owners room to entertain or lounge. Windmill palms flank the patio on either side, while two very mature Crape Myrtles provide a touch of symmetry.
Wrap plants and smaller trees. To provide plants with extra protection from the wind and cold, the National Association of Landscape Professionals suggests wrapping them in burlap or a frost protection fabric and planting them along a building or fence that offers wind protection. Many plant varieties, like roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles, can be damaged by sub-freezing temperatures.
The small space behind a Brooklyn, N.Y., row house was enclosed on two sides by a 12-foot brick wall and bare with no plants. To create the illusion of a bigger space, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, added ivy to the walls and brought in plants such as camellias and crape myrtles. The project was an 2015 American Society of Landscape Architects award winner.