Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a much used and loved flowering ornamental tree. It is also the bane of many Arborists and home owners alike. While having many good points, the negative side needs to be seriously considered before adding this to your landscape.
The Good: It’s pretty. It’s really, really pretty. On my list of good looking flowering trees, Bradford will rank easily in the top 5. It blooms early and the color lasts a long time. The overall shape of the tree is amazing. It doesn’t get too big or make a huge mess with fruit during summer. On looks alone it’s a great tree. Things go down hill quickly from here.
The Bad: In order to create this very pretty tree a steep price was paid. The wood is very dense, to the point of being overly brittle. The grain is wavy, leading to hardeness but not much strength. I’ver heard time and again while cleaning up storm damage that “it must have been all the ice”. When I point out there wasn’t that much ice and no other trees were damaged, home owners start to listen. The branching habits of this tree create all of the problems. When left to its own devices, too many branches will grow out of the same spot. This creates a situation where the branches are actually pushing against each other all the time and the resulting effect is the tree tears itself apart. Ice or wind during a storm may be a catalyst but it certainly isn’t the actual cause. Lots of times, the tree just splits and part falls off. Now, if you maintain this tree and are willing to prune every season as needed there is a good chance of having a longer living healthy and safe tree. Average life span without serious maintenance is 7 to 14 years. A tree that is pruned every season could last closer to 50+ years. It’s all in what you, the home owner, are willing to do. This brings us to…
The Ugly: There are “tree services” out there who make a lot of money selling and planting Bradford Pears. They also make a lot of money removing the same trees in only a few years because the tree tore itself apart. Many times new Bradford Pears are sold to the home owner again and planted in the same spot. A Certified Arborist isn’t keen on selling these trees unless the home owner has a full understanding of the problems associated with it. Be an educated consumer. Do some research before you buy any tree. Is it worth the hassle? Is it worth potential damage to your home or car? Will it be planted in a place where there is no risk of damage in the event of structural failure? Will you be willing to go out yourself and prune every season? Can you afford to pay someone qualified to maintain the tree for you?
The choice is yours and I urge you to be proactive in the process. Bradford Pear is very pretty and I do plan to plant one in my demonstration garden this spring. I understand the risks and feel the reward in spring is worth it.
If you have any questions on Bradford Pears or any tree in general, feel free to ask me! I am an ISA Certified Arborist, license number MW4957A. You can find a Certified Arborist in your area by going to www.isa-arbor.com. Search for someone local or verify the credentials of someone you’re considering hiring.
Remember: for questions about gardening, landscaping or lawn and garden tools, just Ask My Garden Guy!