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Crepe Murder and Lawn Scalping. “It’s a Southern Thing!”

Are you a homicidal pruner guilty of Crepe Murder? I am referring to the savage practice of shearing off the top of n innocent Crepe Myrtle tree giving it a crew cut and making it a bush or stumpy hedge. The rational is that this practice increases the number of flowers and blooms the tree produces to create a fuller canopy.

New Garden tells us that a naturally growing Crepe (or Crape) Myrtle, when correctly pruned has a beautiful vase-shaped form with gently arching branches and lovely cinnamon- and silver-grey mottled bark. An attractive personality of Crepe Myrtle is its small cluster of long, twisting trunks and branches that climb to the canopy and display and elegant bloom of summer flowers.

They go on to say that proper pruning involves little cutting of the main trunk, focusing instead on removing thin, poorly placed, crossing branches to open up the center for enriched air circulation. A well pruned crape myrtle should not look like it has been "pruned" at all. Here are the recommended basics for pruning:

  • Remove all suckers from the base.

  • Remove side branches from the main trunk up to four feet or so.

  • Remove higher branches that grow inward toward the center

  • and any crossing or rubbing branches

And they suggest that by removing green seed pods immediately after summer bloom you will encourage a second flush of flowers.

Tom Peon writes that scalping is not appropriate for all types of grasses. Suggesting only Bermuda, which is a warm season grass common in the South and Southwest, will benefit from this treatment. Tom advocates to only scalp your lawn when the danger of a hard freeze has passed. Scalping your lawn when your grass is relatively dry then bag and removing excess clippings.

To scalp your lawn, set your blades at the lowest or nearly the lowest setting and to make sure that your blades have been sharpened because dull blades tear and rip grass instead of cutting it.

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