and photos by Janet Gregg
Courtesy of Texas Cooperative Extension
you drive through McKinney, you can’t help
but notice the natural beauty that is a part of the city. It seems
so harmonious, it takes a few minutes to realize that a large part
of what makes the drive so aesthetically pleasing is a relative newcomer
to the scene.
But on closer look, visitors realize they’re seeing crape myrtles
everywhere. And at this time of year, they’re just now popping out
into full bloom. From peaceful whites to romantic lavenders to bold
pinks and reds, these Lagerstroemia offer something for everyone.
They range in height from dwarf shrubs, with a height of three feet
or less, to medium sized trees with heights up to 30 feet. They have
the traditional multi-stem trunks and the less common single stem
trunks. They are planted alone, in groups and with other plants that
only serve to enhance their appeal.
stem Crape Myrtles planted along the medians in Stonebridge Ranch
Subdivision in McKinney
pink Crape Myrtle bloom.
McKinney Parks Development Superintendent, oversees the city’s plantings.
“I think the crape myrtle concept has found favor and we’re going
to go forward with this. But I don’t know how long it will take to
complete the trails. I think it’s been very well received and the
plant material is excellent for what we’re asking it to do. They like
hot weather and you can take away the water supply for this plant
and it will survive, if you have water rationing, for example. I totally
am in support of the concept here and I think the council is as well.”
City leaders aren’t alone. “The community loves this project. They
want to get more involved and they want to know how to get more involved,”
says Susan Owens, Executive Director of the Crape Myrtle Trails of
The foundation was formed in 1998. The driving force behind the ongoing
beautification effort is Neil Sperry, former Dallas County Agriculture
Extension Agent best known today for dispensing horticulture advice
through his radio show, broadcast on KRLD and the more than 60 radio
stations that are part of the Texas State Network.
Sperry describes the foundation’s goal, “We are establishing ‘The
World Collection’ of Crape Myrtles in the public areas of the city
of McKinney. This collection does not exist anywhere else in the world.”
Crape Myrtle bloom.
|Over the last
four years the city has planted more than 2,000 crape myrtles along
more than 10 miles of public roadways, primarily on El Dorado Parkway,
Virginia Parkway, Highway 380 and all the way through the Stonebridge
Myrtle Trail continues through El Dorado Parkway, marked by signs
|Owens says the
next phase of planting will run from Highway 75 west on Virginia Parkway
to the beginning of Stonebridge Ranch.
She adds that the plantings in the Stonebridge Ranch subdivision are
particularly beautiful, because the developers immediately embraced
the vision of a citywide crape myrtle trail.
“The city of McKinney Parks Department got a grant from the Texas
Department of Transportation”, Owens said. “Then they got a city ordinance
that each development that comes in has to set aside $17.00 for each
linear foot of development for media plantings. Stonebridge Ranch
came in and said, ‘We’re going to match that.’, and they put in $35.00
per linear foot.”
The result is an impressive display of seasonal color. Owens says
it’s only the beginning. “Our vision for the Crape Myrtle Trail is
to park on the west side, get on a bus, drive the trail one way, stop
and shop and have lunch, get back on the bus and drive back a different