(I say “plant” because I’ve never been sure whether to call it a tree or a shrub. A hybrid? Shree? Trub?)
I’m pretty sure the first ones I met were victims of unfortunate pruning. They were having a bad hair season, and it wasn’t their fault. But it became the default in memory’s filing system.
Here’s something else, which I hadn’t thought of until now. I grew up a little north of crape myrtle’s comfort zone, in lilac country. Lilacs don’t grow well here because they need a reliably cold stretch to produce their flowers. It’s possible I started off resenting crape myrtles because they’re not lilacs.
Lilac has a distinctive aroma. An evocative smell. Tell me to close my eyes, stick some under my nose, and before the word “lilac” could make it to my mouth, I’d be a kid on Whitely Street, pausing on my walk to or from school in spring to inhale from the bush growing by the dark brown house with white trim.
You don’t see crape myrtle perfume, or soap. Or odes. Whitman didn’t write “When Crape Myrtles Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”
I’m rethinking crape myrtles, though, because they got me in trouble this week.
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