A Gift You Can Make To Posterity

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.”
George Orwell

Crape Myrtles (or Crepe Myrtles) are one of the few blessings during the toxic summer North Texas Heat. Those beautiful blossoms of a plethora of bright colors are the only thing that looks like it is alive during those months. Those trees (or shrubs) are everywhere in Dallas and everybody loves them. In addition to the blooms, they have these beautiful branches – sinuous and almost animal – like. I have photographed and blogged about them before.

So why the hell do people do this?:

Topped Crape Myrtle, Dallas, Texas

You see this all over the city in the winter months. People chop the tops off their Crape Myrtles. It ruins them. They grow back with a cloud of ugly little branches sprouting out from the cut ends.

Someone that knows much better than I, Neil Sperry, the guru of North Texas plants writes:


Please! Stop Topping Crape Myrtles

I love crape myrtles. No flowering shrub that we grow rewards us so completely, yet requires so little care and attention. Then why must this barbaric chopping persist?


I have spent an entire career in Texas horticulture trying to get people to STOP TOPPING CRAPE MYTLES! I’ve seen progress in DFW, where many of us have been preaching this gospel. But in the rest of Texas and across the South, and still even in the Metroplex where I live, people are doing it.

I’m going to ramp up my rant. My previous 45 years of trying to be polite haven’t gotten the job done. THIS IS INSANE. There is simply no call for what many of you now call “crape murder.”

I have listened to seemingly every excuse in the world for this barbarism, from “My plant is too tall for the space that I have for it” to “It makes my plant flower better.” It’s all just so much hooey, and I hope you’ll forgive me if my eyes glaze over and my smile seems frozen. I’m thinking about something else. I am no longer tuned in to you.

Whacking the plants back like this does not change their genetics. They’re still going to try to grow just as tall. Topping won’t stop that. All topping will do is leave the plants looking gnarled and ugly. If you have a crape myrtle that’s too big for its spot, either move it – or remove it entirely. Don’t put it and yourself through the misery of topping your crape myrtle each year.


I wonder why people do this and why it bothers me so much. I think the root cause behind both is the concept of Control. What more gratifying Control Of Nature act could there be than beheading your bushes? It must give some people a big rush to be able to cut back and restrict the growth of something so beautiful, innocent, and alive. And I have come, over my decades, to detest Control… especially blind, hurtful, and damaging Control.

So there it is, I drive home from work or ride my bicycle through the suburban streets and am presented with these decapitated shrubbery, these beheaded bushes, these topped trees. It isn’t fun. The winter is bad… maybe the worst… or maybe it isn’t – the spring is horrible as the maimed, damaged, and deformed remains send out their shoots, trying to get back to normal – though they never will. The scars of their maiming are there forever in their distorted forms.

So, you ask me, then how do I trim my Crape Myrtles? Just remove any excess or damaged branches as a whole. That enables them to keep their attractive shape…. Like this:

Properly Trimmed Crape Myrtle, Dallas, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Six – The Semplica-Girl Diaries

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day six – The Semplica-Girl Diaries, by George Saunders

Read it online here:

The Semplica-Girl Diaries

All my life I have had neighbors that take better care of their lawns and other landscaping than I do. They are always out there, doing battle against the natural increase in entropy. I have seen grown men crawling around on their hands and knees on a hot Texas afternoon all over their lawn pulling out individual stems or blades of diverse species of plants (weeds) one by one. They must have that bright-green, carpet-like monoculture of their carefully-chosen cultivar covering the entire sward.

It seems like insanity to me. I say I am going for the more environmentally-friendly method of allowing nature to take its natural course… as much as the neighborhood association (Nazis) and the City Inspectors (more Nazis) will allow. That is, of course, bullshit – I am simply lazy.

What is going on here? Is it a way to fight back the inevitable advance of death, chaos, and decay? (suburban life is singularly dedicated to concealing the inevitable march and ultimate victory of death, chaos, and decay) Or is it a “keeping up with the Joneses” thing? (artificial tokens of wealth are again, totally unknown to my way of thinking) Or is it simply a way to pass the time? Or maybe a habit, born of generations of suburban life?

Or all of the above.

Todays story, another long one (but very worth reading, trust me) takes all this to an extreme. It is a set of diary entries by a family man, a father of children, that is struggling and failing to keep up with the Joneses. (It’s always especially tough when the Joneses have kids that hang out with yours) He is in debt, his car is a wreck “Kids got in, Eva (middle child) asked what was meaning of ‘junkorama.’ At that moment, bumper fell off.” and his lawn is bereft of ornament.

He writes one evening, after attending the birthday party at his daughter’s friend’s place.

Do not really like rich people, as they make us poor people feel dopey and inadequate. Not that we are poor. I would say we are middle. We are very, very lucky. I know that. But still, it is not right that rich people make us middle people feel dopey and inadequate.

Am writing this still drunk and it is getting late and tomorrow is Monday, which means work.

Work, work, work. Stupid work. Am so tired of work.

Good night.

And that brings us to the concept of the Semplica-Girls. When I first read the story, it took me a while to grasp the concept (it is so horrifying) and then I had to re-read the thing before I figured out what SG stood for. (Semplica-Girl, of course). To make things easier for you, I’ll explain. Semplica-Girls are living lawn ornaments – desperate young women from the poorest countries that sign a contract agreeing to perform on a rich person’s property. They are strung together on wires run through their brains (a micro-line run through a pathway burned by a very fine laser – it doesn’t even hurt) and hoisted up into the air as decorations.

The story is written more as a comedy than as a cruel dystopia. Somehow, that makes the horror worse.

The father-diarist wins some money in a scratch-off lottery and decides to blow the cash on an extravagant party for his oldest daughter, plus a lawn make-over, complete with four SGs(Semplica Girls) strung together, wafting in the breeze, quietly chatting with each other, four feet off the ground.

Everyone is happy. Everyone except Eva – the father’s most sensitive daughter. She is upset.

I’m pretty sure the SG are not happy, either.

Things do not end well… Actually, maybe they do. I guess they end the way that everything always ends.