IN THE YARD: Vitex trees

If, driving around town, you’ve found yourself enchanted by glimpses of little trees spiked with beautiful, cone-shaped purple blooms, you’ve become a fan of the vitex tree, also called the chaste tree.

The flowers are fragrant and attract hummingbirds and butterflies, says Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter agriculturist.

Vitex trees have some nice characteristics: They grow fast, reaching a height of about 15 feet, and are also drought tolerant.

If you’d like to plant one of these show-stoppers in your own yard, Owings recommends a well-drained location in full- to partial-sun, avoiding low spots that hold moisture in the soil.

Some of the named varieties he recommends are Shoal Creek, Montrose Purple and Lecompte, which he says originated from cuttings from a tree in central Louisiana.

CRAPE MYRTLES ... COMPLICATED?: I’d decided in recent years that crape myrtles, which we may take for granted for their color in the landscape, are a bit more complicated than I thought.

A large crape myrtle tree in my yard used to be covered with rosy pink flowers. But some years go by now with hardly a bloom.

Right now in the area, I’m seeing crape myrtles in full bloom — the color white seems to be the most prevalent — while others nearby are still dressed in green.

Crape myrtles can begin blooming between mid-May and early June and can flower for several months, but there may be some reasons why some trees never bloom.

According to horticulturists with the LSU AgCenter, it’s good to fertilize the trees in late winter or early spring. They also need eight hours of direct sun to bloom well.

Leaf spot, aphid infestations, drastic pruning and too much fertilizer can also hinder blooming, according to the LSU AgCenter.

The easiest-flowering varieties are Natchez, Tuscarora, Basham’s Party Pink and Muskogee.

STUNNING STAMPS: I had a nice surprise when I bought a book of stamps recently and was handed the new “Vintage Seed Packets” stamps. It felt like I had been presented with a little bouquet.

The art of the U.S. Postal Service commemorative Forever stamps uses photographs of actual seed packets printed between 1910 and 1920.

The charming art of alyssum, primroses, zinnias and more will have you wanting to plant a window box or at least study a rack of seed packets.

Ellyn Couvillion

Advocate staff writer