Sunday, August 26, 2018

Black Diamond Crape Myrtle

I love burgundy foliage or any plant that has something other than green leaves.  And I LOVE these new(ish) Black Diamond Crape Myrtles!  They are a bushy type version of the Lagerstroemia trees that are ubiquitous in SoCal but with almost black leaves! Find them at   I first heard about them from my friend Steve Gerisher who brought a couple to show at a meeting of the Southern California Horticulture Society a few year ago. He said he got them at Home Depot. I fell in love with them and was on a quest! I searched about 4 HDs in the San Fernando Valley on my way home from a job one day without luck. I finally was able to purchase 2 at a HD in Walnut after visiting my parents in Diamond Bar.  Then they had them in the San Gabriel Valley but not the SFV.  Whatever! I was happy to have 2 colors.  I planted a red one in my front yard and the white one in my back yard.  But I wanted more.  

How gorgeous is this color combo! 

My first Red in the front yard. It's about 5' tall after 3 years. 

Like other Crape Myrtles, they are deciduous in winter, put out leaves in spring and bloom in summer.  Mine are looking lovely right now in the dog days of summer.  This Spring, I bought 3 more- all red. I wasn't able to find more colors. I checked 2 of my local Home Depots without luck.   I planted them in my front yard.   I really want pink and purple now too.   Bushy Crape Myrtles are easily kept at about 6' tall in SoCal.  Regular single trunked tree Crape Myrtles can grow up to 25' tall.  

Bushy Crape Myrtles are easily kept at about 6' tall in SoCal.  Regular single trunked tree Crape Myrtles can grow up to 25' tall.  

Still little but it will grow :-) 

White in the backyard. 

White in the backyard. 

Have you seen these new varieties? They're SO worth growing!  

Happy Gardening! 

Friday, August 24, 2018


I've had this plant for over 10 years. I remember buying it at the South Coast Plaza Flower Show and accidentally breaking off the first flower before I even got it home. I had to wait a year to see another flower. It's called Odontonema callistachyum. Say Oh-daunt-oh-neem-uh CAl-E-stack-E-um. That's a mouthful! Research says a common name is Purple Firestrike. But the plant is so uncommon that I've never heard it called that. 

The spent flowers take on a fuzzy texture. 

I planted it in the ground at our house about 6 years ago on the east side. It likes part shade.  Said to grow 6' tall, mine is about 7' tall and almost completely obscures one of my rain barrels. It is native to Mexico so may be a little susceptible to frost. Mine has had no damage. It is a little mysterious as to when it flowers. It seems to bloom sometimes here or there.  Annie's Annuals says it blooms winter through spring.  But this is August! So, who knows.  

There is also a red version that's Odontonema stricta.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Who Doesn't Like Lantana?

I apologize for skipping July here dear readers.   It was all I could do to just water my own garden(and work in others).  We had the hottest July on record they say.  On 7/6 we had blowtorch weather of 114º here at my house.  I lost 3 rose bushes and several other plants.  The there were so many days in the upper 90s.  I can take 90º easily compared to 114º!   My new little Michelea champaca tree that replaced out giant Cedar is still trying to recover from burned leaves.  Anything that is tropical or has big leaves like Nandina, Raphiolepis, Avocados got burned.  I'm still seeing 4' brown tops of Eugenia street trees in South Pasadena. August is usually the killer.  I don't like it.  Get this summer over with please!  But to think on the bright side, every August day we get through is one we don't have to do again and are that closer to Autumn! 


I thought I didn't like Lantana way back when I worked at the nursery. They smell kinda bitter like grapefruit.   Then I began working in gardens around them and also smelled a sort of aftertaste fragrance.  It starts out bitter then turns sweet like(those tv commercials for) Sour Patch Kids!  Lantana are ubiquitous here in the LA area.  Why? Because they are easy, fast growing, drought tolerant and bloom for a really long time.  Isn't that what everyone wants in a plant?  Except for a prolong hard frost, they are mostly indestructible! I've never lost a Lantana to frost here.  They usually get just a little frost burned tips.  But fast growth also means it may need pruning twice a year if it gets too chummy with plants around it.  If it grows over another plant, Lantana will block the light and may kill it.  So get used to cutting it down. Pruning won't kill it. Oh, I almost forgot- it attracts hummingbird AND butterflies.   

Research says that they are native to the tropical Americas and Africa.   In Australia they are trying to control them from being invasive.  There are many varieties of Lantana, but two basic kinds; trailing are L. montevidensis and upright are L. camara.   I grow 4 varieties in my garden right now.  

Lantana camera "Radiation"
a pale pink peachy one in my garden without a tag. 

Here is a yellow one in my garden spilling out into the street. 

I also grow a pink variety called Lantana "Malibu Beach Cities" that is supposed to be compact growing.  But it is taking a break from flowering right now so no pic.  

On my evening walk I saw this Lantana above growing over an 8' chainlink fence! 

Here I am with it to show how tall that Lantana is! 

 Below please see how much you can cut back Lantana.  That twig at the bottom middle left is it.  I whacked one of mine here about a week ago. It's still green inside the branches. It'll pop any day now despite the 97º it is outside! 

Lantana super whacked in my garden. 

Do you grow Lantana?  
Happy Gardening!