Remember back in winter and spring when Grumpy told you not to butcher your crepe myrtle? Well, it’s summer now and the chickens have come home to roost. Guess what you get when you ignore Grumpy’s advice. This.
Isn’t this crepe myrtle bee-YOO-ti-ful? I photographed it on the sly yesterday in my own neighborhood while I was headed to Wal-Mart to buy nuclear centrifuges and cat food. (The centrifuges were on sale! Woo-hoo!)
As you can see, chopping back your crepe myrtle just because your neighbors, the Pootwaters, do it will earn you ridicule every time. And rightly so. For not only do you reduce a living sculpture to gross, ugly stumps, but when the plant blooms in summer, the long, whiplike branches that sprout from those stumps are too flimsy to hold up the flower clusters. So after a rain, your crepe myrtle displays all grace of plus-size undies hanging on a line.
How to Fix This Awful Thing You Did
You feel sad and humiliated now. This is understandable. The good news is that even you can be rehabilitated and your mutilated crepe myrtle restored. Follow these steps.
1. Don’t do anything now. You might as well enjoy the flowers. Although since they look so much like cemetery flowers, erecting a headstone next to them would not be unreasonable.
2. This winter, prune off all of the arching side branches growing from the base.
3. Next, remove all but one shoot growing from the end of each stub. Train it to grow up and out. Remove any flowers as soon as they fade, so that shoot won’t hang down.
4. Do this for the next couple of years. The shoots you left will become the new main trunks.
5. Quit your job, sell your belongings, move to a cave in Greece, and meditate.
The Right Way to Prune
For those of you not wishing to be embarrassed on this page in the future, I suggest you review the finest article on crepe myrtle pruning ever written — Crepe Myrtle Pruning Step-By-Step
. Don’t recall who wrote it, but he’s a genius.