Crepe Murder Most Foul — the Best of the Worst 2012

March 7, 2012 | By | Comments (3)

Grumpians, we come here today to honor those quick enough with a camera, sizzling enough with rage, and devoid enough of any conscience to capture disturbing evidence of their neighbors committing a heinous act — the crime we call “crepe murder.”

For the uninitiated, crepe murder refers to the odious practice of using chainsaws and loppers to reduce beautiful crepe myrtles to hideous stumps every spring. Not only does this ruin their sculptural form, but it also prevents them from developing that wonderfully mottled, smooth, flaky bark so welcome in the winter landscape. Moreover, the long, whiplike branches that grow from the stumps are too weak to hold up the flowers.

Grumpy is well aware that some misguided individuals defend crepe murder. A recent posting on the Grump’s Facebook page lauded such severe pruning as an “art form,” with its roots in pruning techniques practiced for centuries in Europe and Japan.

For example, “pollarding” involves controlling the size and shape of a tree or shrub by cutting it back to essentially the same points every year, forming gnarly knuckles on the end of each stump that look like a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. In the case of crepe myrtles, I do not find this beautiful. I find it grotesque.

How Entries Were Judged

First of all, Grumpy would like to thank everyone who entered the 2nd Annual Crepe Murder Contest for your vigilance and dedication to our holy cause. Although every entry was righteously condemned for its horror, only 10 could win. Therefore, I sadly eliminated entries whose poor picture quality prevented suitable reproduction. Extra points were earned for creative ugliness, mindless ugliness, abusive ugliness, and (above all) in-your-face ugliness that shows you don’t have a clue and don’t care who knows it.

Are You Ready to Rumble! Our First Winner!

For demonstrating one of the quickest and easiest ways to uglify a lovely, historic neighborhood, a big Grumpy shout-out goes to Jeff Minnich, a garden designer in Arlington, Virginia. Jeff was too scared to photograph crepe murder at home, so his took this lovely photograph in the heart of historic Savannah where he was less likely to be assaulted. Crepe murder is generally less common in historic, old Southern cities like Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans, where fine architecture and horticulture have enjoyed a long and happy marriage. But there always has to be one……

Savannah-1.trip.2.18.12 076
This superb example accomplishes two things. First, it prevents the crepe myrtles from ever forming a graceful canopy to provide welcome shade during Savannah’s hot summers. Second, it ensures that weak, spindly branches hanging to the ground will block the walk for months and become a royal pain in the hiney. Way to go!

Prizes! Prizes!

Like every winner, Jeff will receive a lavender ‘Early Bird’ crepe myrtle from our Southern Living Plant Collection. This crepe myrtle grows only 8 feet tall and never needs pruning. Come back tomorrow to see our next winner. I promise it’ll be even uglier.



  1. September – In Seattle, choose crape myrtles for bark not bloom

    […] soils (as almost every plant does) but grow well in red Georgia clay – in parking lots. Pollarding (lopping off the tops of a plant) is often practiced on crape myrtles in the South. Don’t. […]

    September 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm
  2. Pam/Digging

    Yes, that’s a “winner” all right. Ugh. I saw some stunning, old crepe myrtles — evidenced by the thick, beautiful trunks — that had recently been topped here in Austin. It was a crying shame.

    March 9, 2012 at 12:18 am
  3. Ann

    The horror of it all!! This picture is so etched in my mind, no amount of blooming will erase it.

    March 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

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