There are some fabulous flowering trees putting on a great show right now at Kew, including one mysterious bright pink head turner...
There are some stunning sights at Kew at the moment but one almost stopped me in my tracks yesterday. Walking along the side of the Princess of Wales Conservatory I was confronted with a riot of Barbie pink flowers. These were not bedding plants however but a gorgeous example of Lagerstroemia ‘Muskogee’ or the Crape Myrtle tree. I took some quick snaps on my phone…
Kew's Crape Myrtle in full flower next the Princess of Wales Conservatory
The flowers attract lots of bees
I have to admit to not being familiar with this genus although it has been around in this country for a while apparently. On getting back to the office I hit the books…The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs says Lagerstroemia indica was introduced as far back as 1759 and is native to China and Korea. Members of the Lagerstroemia genus are native to the warm parts of Asia, the Pacific islands and Australia.
Kew’s beautifully proportioned tree does well in this part of the gardens as this spot is a real suntrap, and this tree needs good summer heat in order to flower well.
A bit of research
I took a look in New Trees by John Grimshaw and Ross Bayton, which reveals there are 55 species of Crape Myrtles, all with showy flowers and attractive bark. A tree the size of the one at Kew may be unusual as this book claims that in most places this species doesn’t get beyond ‘bush’ size. This specimen looked a good 10-12 ft high.
The website of the Missouri Botanical Garden states it should be grown in a well drained soil in full sun in a protected location, to maximise summer heat for a good display of flowers. It also says that ‘Muskogee’ is a cultivar between Lagerstroemia indica and L. fauriei developed as a mildew resistant hybrid by the National Arboretum in Washington DC. It was named Muskogee after a Native American Indian tribe. The genus name honours Magnus von Lagerstrom (1696 – 1759) a Swedish merchant and friend of ‘the father of botany’ Carl Linnaeus. It’s always good to have friends in high places if you want a plant named after you!
This specimen has a really beautiful pink and beige mottled bark on its multiple stems. The panicles of bright pink flowers are abuzz with all manner of bees. Its glossy leaves, which really set off the flowers, turn a stunning orange in autumn and the flowers give way to rounded seed capsules in autumn too.
All in all a real show-stopper!
For more on some of Kew’s stunning trees look out for the autumn issue of Kew magazine at the end of September.
Tags: Kew at home
Christina accepts a Kew Publishing award at the Garden Media Guild awards in 2012.
Christina joined Kew in 1999 after finishing a BSc. degree in Plant Ecology and an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture. After initially working as a horticulturist in Kew’s Arboretum and the Hardy Display section (on the Grass Garden) she went on to become Festivals Interpretation Officer between 2002-2008, helping Kew’s onsite visitors understand what makes Kew tick. In the meantime she completed an MA in Garden History, a subject that continues to be one of her passions.
Christina was short-listed for a Garden Writers Guild award in 2007 for one of her articles in Kew magazine, and is the author of Kew’s Big Trees, published in 2008. She became editor of Kew magazine in September 2008. “I see Kew magazine as a window on the world of Kew,” she says. “I hope between its pages the many facets of Kew’s work and the people who make it happen are revealed for all to see and encourage readers to continue to support Kew.”
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