Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Love It Or Hate It (Part 4): The Ubiquous Bradford Pear

In mid-March, the 'burbs are full of the ubiquitous Bradford Pear in its bloom. This tree, known for its early, reliable white flowers and desirable shape (an elongated lollipop tree), is everywhere... as is its unique "scent." What do you think? Love it or hate it?

My response: I give the Bradford pear two thumbs down. It is pretty and reliably blooms, but has the scent, once described to me by a child, of "stinky shrimp" and, indeed, it smells to me like rotting fish. This is not a desirable attribute in the spring time (or any time). But the Bradford pear has another strike against it- its wood is brittle. The day after an ice storm or heavy snow, I can walk the neighborhood and find anything from huge limbs to quarter sections to entire Bradfords down on the lawns. Sometimes the tree seem to torque as it splits, leaving large limbs and shredded trunk everywhere. It may bloom reliably, but it also falls apart reliably too- oh, and it is highly susceptible to wind damage. Here is a photo of a Bradford that, a few years ago, lost about a quarter section of the tree to ice.

There are better trees out there, that are not as susceptible to winter storm damage, like flowering cherries. Though these are more expensive to purchase at first, they might save you time, trouble and money by being stronger overall.

Happy gardening!

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