Need a Crape Myrtle substitute

highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)November 17, 2007

I live in a high altitude, desert like climate, with alkaline heavy clay. In the south where I grew up, everyone had Crape Myrtles, which will not survive here. I love the tree-like single trunk look of them, and was wondering if there was a shrub with similar shape/form that would grow here? I want to be able to plant perennials around it, but it is a small space, so shrubs that spread out at the base would not work in this location, but I would like something that would provide a vertical accent. A Japanese Maple would be lovely in this spot, but again it would not survive the winds, and - 20 temps.

All suggestions welcome,


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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Will Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree) survive for you? You might have to do a little pruning to keep the shape, but mine here, in slightly acid heavy clay, and not so severe winter weather, seem, after 3 years, to be mostly vase shaped, single-trunked. They will flower (blue) more than once in the summer, but won't have the long-term bloom of CMs. Otherwise, check out High Country gardens out of Santa Fe for other high desert shrubs and perennials.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 10:09PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

First of all, most crape myrtles I have seen are multi-trunked. Second, it is easy to prune Rose of Sharon into either a single or multitrunked tree form (latter the most handsome I think.) Be sure and get a sterile form like 'Diana' so you don't spend the rest of your life digging seedlings. Another possibility might be Heptacodium miconioides, though the bark is very different looking.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 6:35AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Dibbit, I am not familiar with Vitex, so I will look that one up. High Country Gardens is great, and I have ordered from them before, but a lot of their plants/shrubs are more of a free form prairie type, not structured in shape like I am looking for in this spot.

Laceyvail, it's funny you should mention Rose of Sharon, because that is exactly what is currently in this spot. The one I have is called 'Freedom' and was supposed to have red blooms, but they turned out to be more pink or lavendar. I've thought about replacing it with Hibiscus syriacus purpureus 'Variegata', but I've read the blooms on that one don't fully open. The foliage is so interesting though, that it might be worth it.

I should have mentioned that my house is a reddish/terra cotta color, so I am trying to avoid cool pinks and pale purples, though burgandy looks okay up against it.

Thank you both for your response,

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:23PM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)


I just want to enthusiastically second the recommendation for heptacodium. I'm growing mine as a four-trunked tree/shrub, but the nursery from whom I bought it had a dozen trained to single trunks, and they were lovely. I put mine right in my perennial bed and have a clematis integrifolia wandering through it. The heptacodium gives me white, fragrant flowers from mid-August to mid-October, then the flowers turn to beautiful red calyxes, which is what I have right now. The bark is cinnamon colored and peels. I think it is a fabulous tree or shrub (I'm not sure what it really is). It seems to be completely problem-free.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 12:51PM
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Heptacodium is listed as hardy to zone 5 so consider that when evaluating it.

How about a lilac? 'Agnes Smith' is listed as a white cultivar hardy to zone 2.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 3:09PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Laceyvail and Butterclem, I really like the looks of the Heptacodium, though I'm afraid it will get too large for this location, I am going to keep that one in mind for other locations.

Esh ga, I hadn't thought about Lilacs. Had one at my last house, and I seem to remember babies popping up all around that thing. Not sure if it was sending up sprouts via the roots or if these were actual seedlings. Since this is in a perennial bed, I'm not sure if it would play nice with others, LOL.

Maybe a photo would be helpful?

Just to the right of the porch, behind the mums is the Rose of Sharon, which is too short to show up in this shot. You can't tell in the picture, but the gate to the backyard is right behind this, so I can't have anything that gets very wide here, or it would be difficult to access the backyard. I couldn't find any photos that had a closer view, maybe I'll try to take one tomorrow.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions so far.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 2:21AM
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You are going to have a hard time finding something for that spot.
Buy a real nice looking fancy trellis and plant vines that are hardy to your area.
Or annual vines in the spring, with pretty flowers that you like. Annual vines grow super fast, which is probably what you would like, most of them reseed, you can choose whatever color of flower you wish to have, and if you want something different the next summer, they are cheap to replace with a pack of seeds.
If you spend a little money on a real sharp trellis, in the winter, it will really look nice.
Just a suggestion.
Vines are so gorgeous and verstile, and you can mold them to whatever shape you wish.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 12:04AM
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