Bark can be an overlooked feature of landscape plants when compared to the colorful annuals we plant each year. Let’s take a look at what I consider a landscape treasure. I’m really impressed with these properly pruned and maintained Natchez crape myrtles in the Magnolia Botanical Gardens at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center. Some folks like the summer flowers, while other like the bright crape myrtle fall color. But I really like the bark, especially when it’s shedding or peeling. This is called exfoliating bark and usually begins after the tree reaches maturity. I’ve had calls from worried gardeners asking questions on how to stop their trees from dying and what to spray on the tree to stop the peeling. When the bark begins to shed, don’t treat the tree with anything; it’s supposed to do this. The peeling bark feels like really thick and brittle construction paper. This year there seems to be more peeling than usual and I think it’s because of the really harsh winter we had last year in Mississippi. The exposed trunks reveal a gorgeous mixture of beautiful warm colors ranging from beige and creamy yellows to cinnamon reds and browns that resemble a paint by number painting. These mottled trunk colors are highly prized by seasoned garden aficionados. So don’t be so quick to cut your crape myrtles back every year, you’ll be soon rewarded with these beautiful trunks. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.