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The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle: A Prized Gem in the Garden

When it comes to stunning ornamental trees, few can rival the enchanting beauty of the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle. With its deep, dark foliage and vibrant blooms, this cultivar has captured the hearts of garden enthusiasts and professional landscapers alike. In this article, we will delve into the captivating characteristics and growing requirements of the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle, revealing why it is a prized gem in any garden.

1. Origins and Overview

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Black Diamond’) is a hybrid variety developed by Plant Introductions Inc. and marketed by J. Berry Nursery. This striking cultivar is the result of crossbreeding between the common crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and the Japanese crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei). The breeders aimed to create a plant with intense flower colouration and unique foliage, and they succeeded brilliantly.

2. Stunning Features

2.1 Striking Foliage

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle’s most prominent feature is its captivating foliage. Unlike traditional crape myrtles, which have green leaves, this cultivar exhibits deep, almost black foliage. The dark maroon or burgundy leaves create a stunning contrast against the vibrant blooms, providing an exquisite backdrop to any garden landscape. The foliage also retains its colour throughout the growing season, ensuring year-round visual interest.

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2.2 Vibrant Blooms

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle produces abundant, show-stopping flower clusters in vibrant shades of red, hot pink, and purple. The blossoms are rich in colour, and their petals are crinkled, adding texture and depth to the overall display. These long-lasting blooms appear from early summer through autumn, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, making it a haven for pollinators.

3. Varieties and Cultivars

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle comes in a range of cultivars, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some notable varieties include:

3.1 ‘Best Red’

This cultivar showcases deep red blooms, making it an eye-catching centerpiece in any garden. ‘Best Red’ has an upright growth habit, reaching a height of about 10-12 feet (3-3.6 metres), and exhibits excellent disease resistance.

3.2 ‘Crimson Red’

With its brilliant crimson-red flowers, ‘Crimson Red’ adds a burst of colour to any landscape. It has a compact growth habit, reaching a height of 8-10 feet (2.4-3 metres), making it suitable for smaller gardens or containers.

3.3 ‘Blush’

For those who prefer a softer color palette, ‘Blush’ is a delightful option. Its delicate, light pink blooms create a more subtle and elegant look. ‘Blush’ typically grows to a height of 8-10 feet (2.4-3 metres), and its compact size makes it suitable for various garden settings.

4. Cultivation and Care

4.1 Planting and Location

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle thrives in full sun, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. It is adaptable to various soil types but prefers well-draining soil. When planting, ensure the hole is twice as wide as the root ball to allow for proper root development. Provide adequate spacing between each tree to allow for air circulation and optimal growth.

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4.2 Watering and Fertilisation

Regular watering is essential during the tree’s establishment period, but once established, it becomes relatively drought tolerant. However, for the best performance and abundant blooms, it is recommended to provide regular water during dry spells. Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Fertilising the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is beneficial for promoting healthy growth and vibrant blooms. Use a balanced, slow-release fertiliser in early spring, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid excessive fertilisation, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

4.3 Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is essential for maintaining its shape, encouraging new growth, and promoting abundant flowering. It is best to prune during late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. Remove any dead, damaged, or crossing branches. To encourage a more compact and bushier form, selectively prune the outer branches. Avoid excessive pruning, as it can reduce flowering potential.

Regular inspections for pests and diseases are crucial to maintain the health of your Black Diamond Crape Myrtle. Common pests include aphids, scale insects, and powdery mildew. If infestations occur, treat them promptly using organic or chemical remedies.

5. Design Ideas and Landscaping

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle’s striking foliage and vibrant blooms make it a versatile addition to any garden or landscape design. Here are some design ideas to enhance its visual impact:

5.1 Specimen Planting

Plant a single Black Diamond Crape Myrtle as a focal point in your garden. Its dark foliage and colorful blooms will create a dramatic centerpiece and draw attention.

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5.2 Mass Plantings

For a stunning display, plant multiple Black Diamond Crape Myrtles in a row or cluster. This creates a striking visual impact and adds a vibrant burst of color to the landscape.

5.3 Container Gardening

The compact size of some Black Diamond Crape Myrtle cultivars makes them suitable for container gardening. Place them on patios, balconies, or around outdoor seating areas to add elegance and beauty.

5.4 Mixed Borders

Combine the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle with other plants with contrasting foliage or blooms to create visually appealing mixed borders. Consider pairing it with ornamental grasses, silver foliage plants, or white-flowering perennials for a captivating combination.

Conclusion (word count: 108)

The Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is a horticultural gem that captivates with its dark foliage and vibrant blooms. Its striking appearance, low maintenance requirements, and versatility in garden design make it a prized addition to any landscape. Whether used as a focal point, in mass plantings, or container gardening, the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle is sure to shine and leave a lasting impression on all who encounter its breathtaking beauty.