Focus on Crepe Myrtles
- by Karen Fineran
"The house was set up close to the road, with a good hog-wire fence around the not very big yard, and with some crepe myrtles in bloom the color of raspberry ice cream and looking cool in the heat in the corner of the yard . . .”
from All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
With the dog days of summer nearly behind us, we are happily ushered from summer into fall by the refreshing explosions of color throughout Bay St. Louis from its crepe myrtles. Those audacious spikes of billowing blooms really hold up to the worst summer heat that the Deep South throws at them. Native to China, and brought here from England in the late 1700s, crepe myrtles are ubiquitous on the Gulf Coast, and lend grace and charm to nearly every yard, park and commercial landscape around.
As you give some thought to your fall planting, consider adding a few more crepe myrtles to your landscape. Crepe myrtles come in a rainbow of colors, from hot pinks and reds to cool whites and lavenders. With so many varieties and colors available, crepe myrtles can accent nearly any color scheme or design that you have in mind. They can be used as a single specimen tree or in mass as a hedge or screen, and can serve wonderfully to mask or camouflage unsightly views, fences, sheds, etc. They also add interest to your garden in the fall, when their leaves turn brilliant red or orange. You can find crepe myrtles in dwarf varieties that are only several feet high, to standard trees that grow up to 30 feet. Check with your favorite nursery to find the right size tree for your needs. Finally, crepe myrtles are essentially trouble-free plants – they grow quickly, love heat and humidity, tolerate drought, and are a time-tested winner (for over 200 years!) in our sultry climate.
Planting Tips: Planting your crepe myrtles in the fall will yield the best results and hardiest trees. For best performance, plant in a sunny location that has good air circulation and a well-drained soil. (In partial shade, flowering may be reduced and plants are more susceptible to leaf spot disease.) Dig a planting hole for crepe myrtles twice as wide and the same depth as the original root ball. Water deeply to encourage good root system establishment and use pine mulch around the tree. Fertilize at least annually.
Pruning: Late winter is the best time to prune because, with the leaves gone, you can easily see all the branches and which ones need removing. Your goal should be to maintain well-spaced, main trunks with handsome bark and to thin out the center to permit easy penetration of sunlight and air. But beware of committing “crepe murder”! If you prune too heavily, it will ruin the gorgeous natural form of the trees, and produce weak spindly branches too weak to hold up the flowers. Remove suckers coming up from the base, side branches growing from the main trunks up to about 4 feet high, higher branches that are growing inward toward the center of the tree, any crossing, rubbing or dead branches, and any branches growing at awkward angles that detract from the tree’s appearance.
Finally, you may have wondered about the proper spelling of the word – is it a Crepe Myrtle, or a Crape Myrtle? Apparently, either spelling is considered correct, but I personally prefer the “e” spelling because the crinkled flowers seem reminiscent of crepe paper. Regardless of how you spell them, go out this fall and plant a few of them around your home or business to beautify the Fourth Ward and Bay St. Louis!
Record-breaking crowds have flocked to the Second Saturday Artwalk in Old Town Bay St. Louis throughout the summer, undeterred by hot weather. The fall season of Artwalk series kicks off on Saturday, September 10th, from 4pm – 8pm, and event organizers expect attendance figures to rise even further as temperatures drop.
Old Town Merchants Association president, Ginger Felder Cook, says that the monthly celebration is attracting record numbers of people – both locals and visitors from across the region.
“During the summer, the heat used to put a damper on Second Saturday attendance,” said Cook. “But it was completely different this year, fabulous. Now we’re coming up on the fall, which is always one of our busiest seasons, so we’re thinking the sky’s the limit.”
From 4pm – 8pm each Second Saturday year-round, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and cafés in Old Town give both locals and visitors a chance to check out new art shows, live music acts, coastal cuisine and special showings of new merchandise. Two “Hot Spots” are featured each month, showcasing the wide variety of local merchants and artists.
For September, jewelry artists Sid and Pam Yoder will be spotlighting new one-of-a-kind pearl and sterling silver creations. Their Hot Spot shop, Jewels by Deerworks, is located inside Gallery 220, a large artists’ cooperative at 220 Main Street.
The Yoders have been partners in design for over 15 years. Pam Yoder calls jewelry-making “a hobby that grew from a card table to a full-time business.” After taking an early retirement from her job at the Louisiana State Banking Commission, she tried her hand at jewelry design, something that had always fascinated her. The response to early showings of her work was overwhelmingly positive, and eventually her husband, Sid, began helping out.
Today, between Sid’s silver-smithing and stone-cutting expertise and Pam’s eye for color and design, the couple has built a loyal customer following throughout the South, where they show at over 30 juried art events each year.
To create their signature style, the Yoders seek out stones that aren’t ordinarily found in commercial jewelry. For centerpieces, they gravitate to fossils, antique coins or stones that they lightly facet and leave in a “more natural state.” Pam says that the many collectors of their work have come to expect the unusual – a fact keeps the couple inspired. “We have a good time with it, bouncing ideas off of each other,” says Pam.
Their latest jewelry line combines sterling silver chain with pearls, creating pieces that the Yoders say are both comfortable and easy to wear.
“People want jewelry that can stand the test of time,” says Pam. “Customers are also looking for versatility. These pieces can be worn with jeans, business suits or cocktail dresses. There’s no place pearls can’t go.”
Just up the street at 131 Main Street (side entrance), the other September Hot Spot will feature a different sort of time-tested creation. At the Serious Bread Bakery, the irresistible scent of fresh-baked loaves lures people in through the classic screen door. Once inside, the full-view bakery allows visitors to watch as “Al the Breadman,” works his magic with flour and yeast.
Al Jensen is a retired oceanographer who traveled around the world during his career, sampling breads in every country he visited. Frustrated by the lack of artisan breads on the coast, this staff-of-life connoisseur later decided to solve the problem by becoming a baker himself. He pursued his new vocation “seriously.” After several workshops with a world-renowned baker in Vermont, Jensen and his wife Vivian began selling the loaves in regional farmers markets, finding that their offerings were snapped up by a clamoring public hungry for more.
The Jensens stay busy: they opened the Serious Bread Bakery in March and still sell at the farmer’s markets in both Ocean Springs and Long Beach. In addition to several varieties of bread, Al creates oatmeal-cranberry scones, cookies and muffins. The scones have become sought-after staples as well - Vivian says that they usually bake and sell over 400 each weekend.
To celebrate their September Hot Spot status, the bakery will be offering bread samples (with a variety of healthy spreads), including Al’s recipe for garlic and olive oil flatbread. Live music by David and Sax and signed prints by artist Bonnie Vallery will also be featured.
Other notable “don’t miss” Second Saturday happenings in September:
• Bay Books, 131 Main Street, Suite B – 5pm – 7pm, book-signing by Betty Shaw, author of the newly released Images of America: Gulfport. Also, Peggy Ryland, daughter of Mary and Jim Meyers of the Log House, who has compiled recipes in From Our House to Your House: Original Recipes from the Friendship House and Log House.
• Bay Breeze, 111A Main Street – home of the community bike fleet, rental and sales of kayaks and paddleboards, as well as “coastal home” furnishings. New shipment of garden pottery.
• Depot Duck, 142 Blaize Ave., Depot District – Old Town’s only liquor and wine store offers Happy Hour from 1pm – 3pm with 5% off storewide. Watch for Depot Duck sightings on Main Street during the Artwalk to receive special discount coupons.
• Eclipse Gallery, inside Century Hall, 112 South Second Street – Funky new mixed-media angel figures by award-winning artist Vicki Niolet.
• Fiesta, 131 Main Street – new one-of-a-kind handcrafted artisan jewelry and summer apparel.
• Gallery 220, 220 Main Street – Over two-dozen artists in addition to the Yoders. Refreshments include “Surf and Turf” themed dishes, beverages and lemonade (no charge). Live music from 5-8pm.
• Gourmet Galley, 111C Main Street – new artisan cheese cutting boards, Elena’s Bread Dipping Oils and samples of honey from the Savannah Bee Company.
• The Hancock Chamber Art Gallery, 111 Court Street (easily accessible through back entrance facing the 100 block of Main St.). Featuring “Still Life” themed show by members of The Arts, Hancock County. Reception 5pm – 7pm, with refreshments and live music by Ten North Fredrick. The Gallery is a partnership between the Hancock Chamber, The Arts and the city of Bay St. Louis.
• Identity Vintage, 131 Main Street – Second Saturday sale - 20% off any item with a pearl, including pearl buttons, earrings, necklaces.
• Jean Ann’s Fashion Express, 126 Main Street in “Shops of Serenity” (in rear of Maggie May’s art gallery). New exclusive line of handcrafted nautical chart and map jewelry for both guys and gals, designed by Chart Metalworks of Portland, Maine.
• Mockingbird Café, 110 South Second Street – iconic Mississisppi singer/songwriter Cary Hudson performs with his trio from 7-10pm. No cover. “Mockingburgers” and craft beers by Lazy Magnolia Brewery.
• Mystik Spirit, 400 Blaize Ave., Depot District - 4pm – 8pm, Shadowz Paranormal signing up new investigators. Medium on hand for more fun, including tarot card readings and past life regressions.
• Social Chair, 201 Main Street – September is Team Spirit month, new gear (including team color flamingo sets) for Tigers, Rockachaws, Saints, Bulldogs, Rebels, Golden Eagles or Tide fans.
• Twin Lights Creations, 136 Main Street – New “Harvest” collection of outdoor garden stakes and fall themed yard art.
• Uptown Interiors, 111D Main Street – New contemporary paintings by local artist Allen Melton. New shipments of fall clothing by Karlie, miilla, Tulle and more. Furniture on sale.