Into the Dungeon

If I were Queen, the world would be a much better place — mostly because of my dungeon into which I would toss all those people who make life miserable for the rest of us.  You know the ones I’m talking about: that lady filing her fingernails next to you on the plane, that person bellowing into his cell phone while trying to check out at the cash register, the contractor who doesn’t show up because his grandmother died…..again. There would be special rehab cells for all of them.

But the actual torture chamber would be reserved for people who commit this horticultural atrocity:



I thought the mutilation above was one of the worst ever and then I saw this.  I almost drove off the road:


What on earth? Thumbscrews for whoever did this!

Yes, it’s Spring in Virginia. Crocuses are popping, the birds are returning, and thugs with pruners are mutilating the beautiful Crape Myrtle all over the state. Is there a garden writer in existence – at least down South – who hasn’t ranted and raved against “Crape Murder?” Although the possibility does cross my mind that the perpetrators of these Crimes against Crapes are probably not avid readers of Southern Living magazine.

What baffles me is why? Why would anybody want to have those ugly sticks protruding from their front yard when they could have this:


These trees can be such sculptural beauties if properly pruned.

When we moved to Rosedon, there was one mutilated Crape Myrtle here which I have been slowly helping to recover. The first two years I didn’t prune it all except removing shoots. Now I give it a gentle pruning each spring. It’s never going to be beautiful, sadly,  but at least it is no longer an eyesore.


A recovering Crape Murder victim. Each year I see improvement but it will never be what it might have been.

When a crape myrtle is “trunk-ated”, she tries really hard to recover.  Proud Southern Belle that she is, she desperately sends out as many branches as she can from the nasty knobs formed by all that pruning.


Sad, isn’t it? And the tree will still leaf out and bloom but it’s never quite the graceful form it should be.

The Crape Myrtle is an icon of the southern landscape. Grown for its beautiful blooms in July and August, I love it for its sculptural quality in the garden and that wonderful reticulated giraffe bark. Throw in some brilliant leaf color in fall and the ice-glazed beauty of the seed pods in winter and you have one spectacular tree.


This winter at Rosedon

Here a shot of what a lovely Crape Myrtle should look like if just given a proper mani/pedi and not an amputation:


Or this:


Okay, I would actually be a benevolent Queen and adhere to Personal Principle Number One: Try Kindness First. Criminals would get a warning the first year. But if I saw it happening the second year? GUARDS! Into the dungeon.

Here’s a how-to on proper crape myrtle pruning not that any of YOU need it, I’m sure.

About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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21 Responses to Into the Dungeon

  1. Diane says:

    Aww yes if you were queen of the world – heard this so many times from you and although it is often said tongue in cheek – we laugh
    But even without your tiara on we are certainly in need of a queen
    How dare these people be so rude -give us our space and if you don’t know how to “properly” do something Please ask- someone will gladly tell you how to not to make this infraction!


    • Nobody does a more beautiful job pruning crape myrtles than Sir Wally of Birkdale. They are like graceful bonsai trees – just as gorgeous in winter as in summer. You can rest easy about the dungeon!!


  2. Franny Powell says:

    very interesting post! You are so funny!!!


  3. Meg Turner labelled it “crepe maiming” this year here: Perfect name for this crime whose perpetrators should be sent to the dungeon.


    • Oh yes! Everybody check out this link that Alison provided to Meg Turner’s post. The photos are much better than mine and illustrate even more dramatically how awful “crape maiming” is. Yes, I think we need to form a vigilante group. Can you imagine the headlines in the RTD?


  4. Sue Mayo says:

    WOW! Give ‘m hell your Majesty.


  5. Mary says:

    I elect you Queen! Your majesty this is a rampant disorder in the Pacific Northwest too! Year after year homeowners and trucks of amateurs arrived in our neighborhood to destroy the beautiful plum trees, leaving behind sticks! I would cringe and then give them my evil eye for being so incredibly inept! If you don’t like trees go live in Arizona.


  6. Dianna says:

    I’m sure you’ve heard the term for that: ‘crape murder’, and I, too, cringe whenever I see it….


  7. Pat says:

    We’ve never committed “murder” and our tree will be forever spared with our getting shakier on the ladder every year!


  8. Hello, silverinthebarn,

    I have two small crepe myrtles and I just pruned them a week ago. I held my breath as I watched the video you included, and was relieved to know I’d done everything just fine. The only difference for me was that I didn’t clip off any of the seeds.


    • Mark, you just made me laugh. I don’t clip off any of my seeds either. The Queen has spoken. You are safe!! Now go back to painting that fabulous Pompeiian room of yours. And thanks for visiting!


  9. srudin123 says:

    Guards, to the dungeon – those Swines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I am still laughing Barb. We have no Mrytles here in Scituate to butcher but the folks round here have the hydrangea to mutilate instead


    • Ah yes, I remember seeing such beautiful hydrangea all around the seaside cottages on the North Shore. Aren’t they just the perfect plant to adorn a gray shingled, weather-beaten cottage? Fortunately not everybody gets out the pruning shears, right?


  10. dorannrule says:

    This post is extremely helpful. Fortunately, (or maybe not so fortunately) I have never pruned our crepe myrtle. I have always been afraid of doing the wrong thing. Now I have a clue. Thank you! And happy to know I shall avoid the dungeon! 🙂 P.S. I am no following your blog.


    • Good morning! I’m glad you found my semi-tongue-in-cheek post helpful. Not to worry, all first-time offenders would get a warning before the dungeon!!! Thanks for popping over to my blog and I’m looking forward to reading yours as well. Thank you!


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