Thoughts on all things garden themed from an antique dealer gone amuck! I write, play with the dogs, and fill my house with garden art. There is hardly time to work the dirt!

Copyright 2010-2013 Barbara Barth, Writer With Dogs

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Murder Most Foul - Crepe Myrtle Death By Pruning

     I don't need Miss Marple to find out who butchered my Crepe Myrtle trees. I walked in on the last few minutes of the brutal crime, too late to come to the rescue, but not so late I didn't stand there, my finger pointed at the young man with his electric saw, and scream “Murderer!”

     It was a serial killing. In the corner of my yard, by the bathroom window, another Crepe Myrtle had suffered the same abuse.

     The other culprit, the boy's mother, ran to me from the corner of my yard. Clippers were still in her hand. A lone pink blossom and stem dangled from her weapon.

    “They are not dead. Only trimmed. Your two Crepe Myrtles will bloom again.”

The victim (before)

The crime (after)

     Actually, the scene did not play out as I wrote above. The real cause of the problem was me. I hired a tree service, one that had done a grand job in my yard in previous years, to come clean up the overgrown shrubs and trees so I could find my yard again.

     The Crepe Myrtle, smack dab in the middle of my back yard, had grown out of control. My butterfly bushes, also out of control, mingled with the limbs of the tree. It was more than I could handle.

     We walked the yard and I pointed to the two Crepe Myrtles. The one by the bathroom had limbs resting on my roof.

    “Let's trim them both, along with all these shrubs.” I pivoted in place, my outstretched arm pointed to all the overgrowth. I never said how I'd like them to look. I just left it to the professionals.

     Then I went inside to take a nap.

     The murder occurred while I was sleeping.

     The last two weeks driving down my street I noticed the Crepe Myrtles lining the sidewalks, on the county side, had been pruned back to tall, bald knobs.

    I'd be disgusted if the county did this to my yard. That was my thought every time I backed out my driveway to go somewhere. You couldn't miss how desolate the trees looked. The county had to cut back to protect the electric lines, but the view from the lovely planted yards to the stark tree stumps was shocking. Small branches are now popping up. A bad haircut that is starting to grow.
    I didn't need the county to muck up my yard. I paid to have it done.

    Now the worst example of all sits on my property. The focal point of a garden I wanted to salvage, now the biggest gardening embarrassment possible.

     Yesterday in the misting rain I went out to take a closer look at the Crepe Myrtle center stage. My hand ran up a sleek, bare, five foot tall, thick trunk. I talked to the tree like it was a child.

     "I'll take care of you. I promise I'll never let this happen again." I couldn't tell if it was tears or rain on my face.

     I bent and placed a kiss on the limb.

     Perhaps it heard me and will work harder to push out new growth. I know I will take care to be more cautious with my yard when letting others do the work.

     The Crepe Myrtle by the bathroom is not as badly cut, but I walked over to it and repeated myself.

     Then I came inside and Googled Crepe Myrtles and discovered the controversies about prunning them.

    Crepe Myrtle pruning is greatly debated in the south. With the concept of flowering on new wood, many end their growing season murdering their Crepe Myrtles. While the plant doesn’t actually die, an over zealous pruning job definitely murders the look of one. Gardening With Confidance blog.

   “Crepe murder.” I didn’t invent the term. I think it was coined by Byers Nursery, a big wholesale grower of crepe myrtles in Huntsville, Alabama. I just did what we Americans have always done so well — pass off other’s good ideas as your own.

    Crepe murder is bad for several reasons.

    1. It turns beautiful trees into ugly stumps.

    2. It prevents the formation of pretty, mottled bark on maturing trunks.

    3. A forest of skinny, whip-like shoots sprouts from the end of each ugly stump. These whips are too weak to hold up the flowers, so the branches often bend to the ground, like a drunk who’s about to lose his lunch.  From The Grumpy Gardener, Southern Living

    Be patient, I whisper. I will welcome two drunk looking trees into my yard, as long as they come back and bloom again.

     Right now I am debating about having a still drink myself. While we all got away with murder, the guilt is hanging over me as heavy as the branches were on my Crepe Myrtle.

     Lucky for me, my trees can't shout out, "Off with her head."

     While I didn't handle the saw, I cetainly decapitated them.


  1. What a hoot! A good Sunday laugh for me. I needed it.

    Love and hugs to you as you watch your crepe myrtles sprout new growth and blossoms.


  2. So it wasn't really murder ... just aggravated assault, and you got the worst of the aggravation.

    1. Funny! You are correct. Just looked at your blog and it is lovely.

  3. Replies
    1. Jane - it is amazing how nature pops back. Lots of sprouts on my little Myrtle. Going to post photos.