Death by Pruning — Crepe Murder 2014!!

February 2, 2014 | By | Comments (7)
Crepe Murder

Photo: Dianne Battle

Faithful readers, lend me your ears, your eyes, and your cameras! Once again, it is time to turn the Spotlight of Shame on the ugliest, most pernicious, and inexplicably popular practice plaguing gardens today — crepe murder.

For newbies out there, “crepe murder” refers to the odious, mind-numbingly ignorant act of chopping crepe myrtles into ugly stumps every winter in the belief that this improves them. People who espouse this should also sand all of the paint off of their cars, just for the sake of consistency.

But It’s Not All Bad
If there’s a silver lining behind this dark cloud of crepe-icide, it’s that every spring all citizens of Grumpiana are given the chance to win fame, admiration, and prizes by turning in the perps next door. So unholster your smart phone! Let Crepe Murder 2014 begin!

How to Enter
It’s easy, sneaky, and fun! When you see someone who has hacked their crepe myrtle into a grotesque monster, take a digital photo of the evidence and email it to me at with “Crepe Murder 2014” in the subject line. Be sure to include your name and the name of the town and state where the photo was taken. Anyone can enter, except for employees of Time Inc. and their families.

All judging will be done by the world’s foremost authority on this crime. That would be me. The contest begins today, February 2, and ends at 6 PM CST on Saturday, February 21. Ten well-deserving winners will be announced and presented to you here on ten consecutive days beginning on Sunday, March 2. Each winner will receive a dwarf ‘Early Bird’ crepe myrtle that never needs pruning from our Southern Living Plant Collection.

Entries that combine irony and humor with despicable butchery will earn extra Brownie points, like the winning photo above. I mean, Crepe Murder + Great Clips! How can you beat that?

Are you ready to humiliate your neighbors? I know you are! So start looking and reporting! Let’s make Crepe Murder 2014 the best ever!


  1. Crepe Murder – Death by Pruning Contest 2014 | Greenshooz Landscaping & Lawn Maintenance

    […] Southern Living's The Grumpy Gardener sponsors this year's Crepe Murder contest. […]

    February 16, 2014 at 3:00 am
  2. Starfish (@cowladydeland)

    In Florida and the South, Crape Myrtles are one of the most recommended shrubs/trees due to their branch flexibility. One severe pruning destroys that. Plants that can withstand strong winds and storms are critical factors when you live in a hurricane zone. There is a VERY good reason that it is recommended NOT to severely prune!!
    Read it from another expert source and listen to Steve!

    February 8, 2014 at 1:49 pm
  3. Steve Bender

    It’s true that if you cut back a crepe myrtle severely, it will produce bigger flower clusters than if you hadn’t. However, those clusters will be attached to spindly branches too weak to hold them up, so they’ll hang down like a melting popsicle. Also, flowers aren’t the only reason I plant crepe myrtle. I also treasure the handsome, flaking bark and architectural form — two things you never get to see when you commit crepe murder.

    February 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm
  4. Rebecca

    Well folks… I’m 64 and have years of personal experience with this issue. I’ve had Lilacs and then moved south and now have Crepe Myrtle. BOTH are profuse growers (2 to 3 feet a season) and I’ve learned that severe pruning absolutely DOES IMPROVE the blooms. Yep. The Lilacs and Crepe myrtles have bigger more beautiful blooms and if I keep mine to MY height (5’6″) I can manage them much easier and actually reach the blooms. The lilacs I had got cut back to my waist level and while they didn’t bloom that first year… after that there were COPIOUS amounts of enormous blooms. After that first time cutting, I cut them back every 5 years or so. I prune my crepe myrtles every February or they get out of control.

    The same holds true with rhododendrons, hydrangeas and azaleas. Yearly pruning isn’t necessary but my grandmother had rhodies and hydrangeas that were up over the roof of her house when I was a child with blooms the size of my head. When I was lucky enough to move into her home (40 years later) the rhodies and hydrangeas were so lanky, sparce and the blooms were only the size of my hand. We cut them down to about 18″ and within 2 years they were FULL and the blooms got bigger every year. Within 5 years they were full and up over the roof again. The rhodies were the sizes of basketballs and I could hardly put my arms around the hydrangeas.

    So don’t assume, folks. Take a chance. Rejuvenate… every now in then the process DOES help them.

    February 4, 2014 at 9:15 am
  5. Glittermoon

    I can’t even imagine how you can top this one. Holy cow, it gives me the heebie-jeebies just to contemplate it. Yoicks.

    February 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm
  6. anniedm778

    This also happens up North with our lilacs and other flowering shrubs. Shrubs that are meant to be flowing and fountain-like, not meatballs and meatloaves and tin soldiers. What a great idea! Keep it up. šŸ™‚

    February 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm
  7. Lisa Frame (@ModSouthernGal)

    Good Lord have mercy. Why would people do that to a poor defenseless crepe myrtle?

    February 2, 2014 at 12:02 pm

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