Stop Crape Murder: Don’t Cut Back Your Myrtles

January 25, 2015


by the Santa Rosa County Extension Service

Proper pruning is one of the most misunderstood of all gardening practices, yet it is one of the most important procedures in a landscape. A common victim of bad, improper pruning is the crape myrtle. Crape myrtles will occasionally need pruning to obtain the desired landscape effect, but many times these plants are butchered for no good reason.

According to Dan Gill, LSU Ag Center Horticulturist, an unfortunate trend in crape myrtle pruning is to lop off their tops, which results in a tree reduced to large branches ending in stubs. The lush growth that occurs at these cut sites appears vigorous but is actually structurally weak and more susceptible to fungus diseases such as powdery mildew. And when pruning is conducted improperly over several years, unsightly large, swollen knobs form at the point where pruning is done each year.

Flowers are not the only virtue of this tree. Many varieties have beautiful bark and growth habits that can be enjoyed all year if trees are not heavily pruned.

Crape murder

This unsightly, ugly pruning known as crape murder is not recommended. Once it’s done, it ruins the tree’s graceful natural shape for the rest of its life.

Often gardeners think they are supposed to prune their crape myrtles that way, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Many think that crape myrtles need to be cut way back to bloom well. This is not accurate. The flower clusters may be larger on lopped trees, but the added weight on the ends of long branches causes them to bend over awkwardly, especially after it rains. And since the tree is smaller, it actually produces fewer flower clusters.

Many people say they need to cut a crape myrtle back because of its size. If the height of the crape myrtle is not causing a problem with a nearby structure or power lines, there is little reason to reduce the tree’s height. To cut a crape myrtle back for the vague reason of “it just seems too large” ignores the fact that these plants are trees. They are supposed to be large.

To prune a crape myrtle properly, first decide if it needs to be pruned. As with any pruning project, you must have a specific, valid purpose in mind before you begin. In other words, if you can’t come up with a good reason to prune your tree – leave it alone. If you do see something that calls for pruning, study the tree carefully and determine what needs to be pruned to accomplish the specific purpose identified.

There are a few valid reasons for pruning a crape myrtle. One reason is to eliminate crossed and rubbing branches because rubbing branches can lead to open wounds.

Over time, branches that are too low on the trunk will need to be pruned to raise the canopy. We often need to remove weak, thin branches from the inner part of the tree to produce a cleaner-looking tree. Selected branches may need to be pruned back to a side branch or the trunk to create a shapelier tree. Of course, you need to prune to keep suckers removed from the base of the trunk.

Generally, avoid cutting back or shortening branches much larger than your finger, although cutting larger branches back to a side branch or to the trunk when needed is fine.

Visitors to our area often marvel over our crape myrtles. During summer, their colorful flowers, attractive bark and beautiful shape make them among our most valuable landscape plants. Please appreciate this – and stop the unfortunate trend of hacking them back.

Pictured top: Crape myrtle trees do not need pruning  for new growth. Pictured below: These Crape myrtles were ruined with unnecessary topping. Submitted photos for


Weber Performs With All State High School Honors Band

January 25, 2015

David Weber of Northview High School was chosen to be in the All State High School Honors Band.  He recently traveled to Tampa to the Florida Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference and All-State Concerts to perform with 123 other students from across the state. Pictured below: Weber performs with guest conductor Barry L. Houser from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  Submitted photos for click to enlarge.

Ernest Ward Names January Students Of The Month

January 23, 2015

Ernest Ward Middle School has named January Students of the Month. They are: (L-R) Addison Albritton, seventh grade; Amber Gillman, sixth grade; and Dalton Hamilton, eighth grade. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Escambia School Board Honors Sara Calhoun, Florida’s Top Elementary Reading Teacher

January 21, 2015

The Escambia County School Board honored a Molino Park Elementary School teacher Tuesday night for being named the top elementary school  reading teacher in the entire state.

Sara Calhoun was named the Florida Reading Association’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015.  She was honored with an award presentation last October at the Third General Session of the Florida Reading Conference in Orlando.

“Teaching and leading a child to read is the most incredible privilege, second only to leading another soul into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This is clearly the most exciting and humbling highlight of my career,” Calhoun said, as she praised the work of other Molino Park and district educators.

“We are all so proud of Mrs. Calhoun and know that this award is well deserved,” Molino Park Principal Alice Woodward said in a September 2014 story. “We are so blessed to have her as part of our Molino Park team.”

Calhoun has taught first grade at Molino Park Elementary for three yeras. She has been married to her husband, Brian, for the past 18 years, and they have two children. The family moved to Molino seven years ago when Brian was called to be the pastor and Highland Baptist Church.

The Florida Reading Association is an affiliate of the International Reading Association (IRA), a 52,000 member nonprofit educational organization devoted to the promotion of lifetime reading habits and the improvement of language and literacy instruction.

Photo for, click to enlarge.

Bratt Elementary Releases Second Nine Weeks Honor Roll

January 20, 2015

The following students were named to the second nine weeks honor roll at Bratt Elementary School:


  • Rabekah Abbot
  • Lauren Abbott
  • Ragaen Abbott
  • Anna Adams
  • Claire Amerson
  • Erich Amerson
  • Desiray Bagwell
  • Haydn Baker
  • John Bashore
  • Bailey Blackwell
  • Karissa Boatwright
  • Olivia Boatwright
  • Lakyn Bodiford
  • Jackson Bridges
  • Luke Bridges
  • Daylan Brown
  • Nevaeh Bush
  • Luke Chavers
  • Camden Clarke
  • Addison Classen
  • Abigail Coker
  • Shelby Cotita
  • Colton Criswell
  • Callie Davis
  • Trevor Dean
  • Carsyn Dortch
  • JaCee Dortch
  • Mayson Edwards
  • Addison Eicher
  • Noah Faulkner
  • Zykuria Fountain
  • Caitlyn Gibson
  • David Gilley
  • Jamison Gilman
  • Emma Gilmore
  • Talise Gregson
  • Ava Gurganus
  • Zane Gurganus
  • Kailey Hawkins
  • Lean Hetrick
  • Sarah Hetrick
  • Mary Catherine Hughes
  • Gracie James
  • Emily Jarvis
  • Tristan Johnson
  • Ally Jones
  • Keeli Knighten
  • Laura Laborde
  • Kennedy Long
  • Adanaya Mondaca
  • Carley Moore
  • Jaquez Moorer
  • Alyssa Moya
  • Bentley Van Pelt
  • Ally Richardson
  • Maggie Scott
  • Jackson Simmons
  • McKenna Simmons
  • Brayden Smith
  • Mia Starns
  • Kole Stewart
  • Maggie Stewart
  • Aubrey Stuckey
  • Clay Wilson
  • Jasmine Zisa

ALL A’s and B’s

  • Adam Adams
  • Luke Amerson
  • Ethan Bingham
  • Nalanna Black
  • Kyle Blanton
  • Abbie Buford
  • Jaquorious Burt
  • Michael Butler
  • Kadence Calvert
  • Jakyra Carter
  • Zakhel Clemmons
  • Noah Condrey
  • Chloe Criswell
  • Talaysha Curry
  • Casandra Davis
  • Kylie Davis
  • Payton Daw
  • Ryan Dove
  • Tyteann Dubose
  • Gage Eicher
  • Scotty Elliott
  • J’Kayla Evans
  • Jamyla Feagin
  • Allison Flowers
  • Tessa Flowers
  • Aliyah Fountain
  • J.P. Gilman
  • Shelby Greewell
  • Berklee Hall
  • Abbie Hardy
  • Logan Hasting
  • Kara Hawkins
  • KayLeigh Jay
  • Trent Knighten
  • Gage Lambert
  • Anna Lee
  • Kaitlin Lloyd
  • James Loftis
  • Jessica Loftis
  • Sarah Long
  • Houston Lowry
  • Max Mason
  • Reid McCall
  • Keira McDuffie
  • Braeden McGhee
  • Megan McGhee
  • Landon Mooney
  • Elianna Morales
  • Kai Morton
  • Alexis Moya
  • Travis Nelson
  • Blaize Parrish
  • Reagan Peebles
  • Cloie Pickern
  • Colby Pugh
  • Dallon Rackard
  • Angel Schoonover
  • Treyton Schoonover
  • Adrianne Shanks
  • Carter Sigafoose
  • Arquavian Smith
  • Malia Smith
  • Mandell Smith
  • Zakyla Smith
  • Jacob Spence
  • Alyssa Stabler
  • Reece Starns
  • Emily Stilwell
  • David Stokes
  • Jeremy Thomas
  • Madison Thomas
  • Corbin Turberville
  • Haidyn Turberville
  • Raycer Watson
  • DaMius Wesley
  • Jordan Wilson
  • Raylee Wooten
  • Joshua Zisa

Storytime Held Each Week At The Local Library

January 19, 2015

The West Florida Public Library offers Story Time for children five and younger each week.

Story Time is held:

  • 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays at the Southwest Branch Library, 12248 Gulf Beach Highway
  • 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays at the Molino Branch Library, 6450-A  Highway 95A
  • 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays at the Main Library: 239 North Spring Street
  • 4 p.m. Thursdays at the Century Branch Library, 7991 North Century Boulevard
  • 10:30 a.m. Thursdays at the Tryon Branch Library, 1200 Langley Avenue.

For more information call (850) 436-5060 or visit The events area always free of charge.

Photos: A Barrineau Park Sunset

January 18, 2015

Pictured: Saturday’s sunset as seen from near Barrineau Park School Road. Reader submitted photos by Kayla Bedell fro, click to enlarge.

Have an interesting photo to share? Email

Airman Travis Deese Graduates From Basic Military Training

January 18, 2015

Air Force Reserve Airman Travis L. Deese graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, TX.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
Deese is the son of Sewonya York of Atmore and grandson of Dan York of Mobile.

He is a 2013 graduate of Escambia County High School, Atmore.

Photos: It’s My Red Couch, And ECUA Can’t Have It

January 15, 2015

A red couch put out with the trash on Kingsfield Road attracted a little extra attention this week because of a dog that just really did not seem to want to give up his favorite spot.

Louis O’Rear, a teacher at Ransom Middle School, shared these photos, and his vision of the story:

“Tuesday, on Kingsfield, just down from Ransom Middle School toward Highwy 97 a little bit, I noticed someone had placed an old red couch on the side of the road. This morning about 7:15, someone was using it. I figure it is his, and no matter where it is, he’s going to use it. Maybe he has been sleeping on that couch for 10 years and isn’t going to stop now. In any case, seeing the look on his face, I don’t think anyone is going to be taking that couch for awhile.”

But within a short time of this story first being published on, we learned that some picked up the little fellow. His condition led them to believe he was homeless and abandoned, and none of the neighbors had seen him before. He was taken to to the Chemstrand Oak Vet Clinic (850-474-1922) for one day, and then he’ll be headed to the animal shelter if no one claims/saves him. For more information, call the vet clinic or (850) 384-1490.

Photos submitted by Louis O’Rear for, click to enlarge.

Forest Service Shares Longleaf Pines During Arbor Day Event

January 15, 2015

The Florida Forest Service and Escambia County Forester Cathy Hardin distributed free longleaf pine seedlings Wednesday in Century and Walnut Hill in recognition of Arbor Day.

Only a small percentage of the pine trees in the Southeast are longleaf. Many people turn to planting much faster growing loblolly or slash pines, looking for a faster return on their timber investment.

A year after planting, longleaf seedlings can still only be a foot tall, meanwhile a slash or loblolly of the same age may already be two or three feet tall.

A longleaf pine has a unique growth stage called the grass stage when it is fire resistant.  When fire is introduced to the growing tip, or the bud, it is protected under a thick arrangement of needles near ground level. While the bud is protected at this stage, the tree concentrates its resources these first few years developing a root system instead of height growth. This allows for rapid growth after a fire due to the well-established root system.

The longleaf pine is far more resistant to disease, tornadoes and hurricanes that destroy other southern pines. Because of its resilience, it is not uncommon for longleaf trees to live for 150 years or more. The longevity of longleaf pine allow the stands to provide a variety of different habitats.

Pictured top: Escambia County Forester Cathy Hardin discusses longleaf pines with producer Ellis Mason during an Arbor Day Event Wednesday in Walnut Hill. Pictured inset: Hardin explains how to plant a longleaf pine seedling. photos, click to enlarge.

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