The crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is a hardy multi-stemmed deciduous tree, native to eastern Asia. It is well suited to most parts of Australia as, once established, it is drought tolerant. It can grow up to 8 metres in height, will thrive despite brutal pruning, and provides a distinctive display through most of the year. Crepe myrtle blooms from January through to March with blossoms that are ruffled and crepe-like in texture in a range of colours – white, pink, mauve or purple. In autumn the foliage changes colour and can be anything from yellow to burnt orange or a deep maroon depending on the variety. The tree begins to shed its bark towards the end of summer, leaving the bark discoloured in patches so that by winter, if the plant has been able to follow its natural shape, its elegant curved branches are smooth and mottled.
I planted my crepe myrtle nearly 25 years ago and it is now about five metres tall. I have, uncharacteristically, resisted the urge to prune except for a regular top pruning to prevent it getting in the way of electricity and telephone wires. It puts on a stunning display of pink blossom in summer yet is equally arresting in autumn when the leaves turn a deep red and in winter when its starkly beautiful trunk is on show.