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Pity the Poor Crape Myrtle

But I have no pity for pruners who butcher this beautiful summer-flowering species

I am appalled at the way homeowners are pruning their crape myrtles. I can only explain it as Monkey See Monkey Do. Just because you see somebody else — even landscape maintenance companies — cutting crape myrtle like dock pilings, it does not mean that they know what they are doing.
    Those of you who travel Rt. 260 see the massacre of crape myrtles growing in the median strip as you approach Chesapeake Beach. The same dumb pruning method is being used on the crape myrtle growing along the boardwalk at North Beach. The workers who are doing this hacking must be the same individuals who are piling mountains of mulch around the base of the plants.

Gardening through the Seasons

Fans of The Bay Gardener will want the bound volume of his wisdom. Enough Said: A Guide to Gardening Through the Seasons, compiled by the Annapolis Horticulture Society, is on sale for $20 at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian and at Grauel’s Office Supplies in Deale. For direct orders — [email protected] — add $6 postage. The Bay Gardener will inscribe your book and send it by return mail.

    I call it the butchering of a beautiful summer-flowering species. Dr. Don Egolf — the plant breeder formerly with the National Arboretum and responsible for introducing all those new varieties with Native American names — must be rolling in his grave.
    Crape myrtles are one of the few trees that provide our landscape with color from July through September. They are available in multiple sizes and colors. If you select the proper variety to fit the location, once the plant has attained its mature size and shape, it does not have to be pruned except for the removal of dead branches and branches that interfere with maintenance. There are crape myrtles in southern Maryland that have not been pruned for decades and produce an abundance of flowers each summer.
    If a crape myrtle is too large, remove it and replace it with a smaller growing variety. If your intent is to grow crape myrtle as a shrub, select one of the dwarf varieties. Prune its stems near to the ground and allow new stems to arise from the stumps. When using this method of pruning, you will have to prune out the taller stems each year so as to promote branching near the ground.
    Those who butcher crape myrtle should be boiled in oil, tarred and feathered, drawn and quartered and dragged out of town using a 20-ton chain behind an 18-wheeler driving down a dirt road.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

I am so thankful for this article and I wholeheartedly agree with you! I have had many, let's call them, 'discussions' with my husband as well as other people that Crape Myrtles are NOT supposed to be pruned the way you see them on rt. 260 and everyone's argument has been that the professionals do them that way, so I must be wrong. I think it is as close to cruel as a gardener can be to chop the tops off the myrtles!
We bought a 40 year old house 3 years ago in Tracy's Landing that has these big and beautiful Crapes right in the front yard. They have never been pruned and they bloom and bloom every year. They are stunning in their size and appearance. I absolutely love them. Thank you for setting us straight. I have cut out your article and posted it on the frig!
Lisa Coffren