Friday, March 14, 2008

Hey! You out there! Do you know what you're doing??

When people ask me for a low maintenance landscape, they can't have crape myrtles in mind. 'K, can't move on to other subjects 'til I get the crape myrtles off my mind.

If you plant one of these pretty babies where it will grow over your driveway or walkway, and you mind the mess, or, if you let someone design it that way for you, well, dang. What're you going to do?

For a lot of people, the solution is pull out the garden saw. Problem is, the more a plant is pruned, the more it grows.

Crape myrtle is one of the coolest small Southern trees. A lot of trouble, though, with the messy blooms, seed pods and all. Concrete and crape myrtles are not a good combination if you're looking for that low-maintenance yard, unless you don't mind a little mess.

Neat parallel stacks of crape myrtle trimmings have been sitting out for pick-up for a few weeks now, and everywhere I look to see how my neighbors are trimming their trees.

Uhm, why?

You people are killing me with the butchering of these trees.

Please, you don't do this to other trees. Why crapes?

Maybe it's their smooth, hard trunks you envy.

Seriously, I've had people asking me to prune their crapes ever since I've been in business. Different places, different decades, same request. I'll do it, and believe me, I take my time. The older a tree the more you have to look at it, every limb, every branch, all the twigs.

There is a right way to do it. The sooner you look over the tree and prune off limbs that are going to cross and rub against each other, the better. If you want the tree to grow thicker, cut the branches back a little to where the buds grow in a good direction. Cut the seed heads back after the flowers have fallen off in the summer if you want the tree to bloom again, or if the mess from the seeds bums you out. If some(idiot, excuse me)body has planted a beautiful specimen four feet from the corner of the house, branches growing towards the house will need to be pruned.

Why do you do it? I'll often ask a client this to help establish a line of dialog, to understand what they are trying to do with a landscape.
Many answers, but the bottom line is this: know the variety before you plant it. Choose for full-grown size and growth habit (ie upright or spreading) even before you choose the flower color. If you don't want to clean up behind them, don't plant them where this becomes a problem. (Like overhanging walks or drives.)

Geez. Get me off this subject, already.

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