questionsbradford/ornamental pear trees: love 'em or hate…

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Agree with the removal once you have a blight. You'll save other trees in the area, though I hate bradfords, so spreading that blight to the other bradfords might be doing everyone a mercy...

Really the smell makes me want to vomit. It's vile and I can't stand it, and you can find plenty of other fast growing trees that don't smell so bad that provide shade. Yellow poplar/Tulip trees are great and fast growing without the splitting problem, or for a flowering tree you can look at different cherry trees or magnolias, depending where you are. Granted they probably won't be as fast flowering as the bradfords, but they'll last and will positively influence your property values due to them being good trees. Even a soft maple will work once it hits your water table.

Go to your local nursery and see what they recommend for your area, because a lot depends on where you live. And walk away as soon as one of them says bradfords are a good idea. Blegh.

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@ki4rxm: Fire blight? You should immediately remove them, and not plant either pear or apple trees there (they'll get sick in the same way). Some things can be fixed. This one cannot. In addition, if you have any local orchards near you (or neighbors with similar trees), it's a kindness for you to remove them. Don't forget to have them grind the stumps. I recommend using blood meal to assist in the break down of any of the wood chips left after this procedure.

Later on, you can plant something nice in this spot. I like Redbuds as an alternative (if they grow well in your area).

[Edit] http://www.tree-pictures.com/redbud_tree_pics.html

See? They are just lovely in the spring (and seem to be pretty disease resistant, too).

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I also have two Bradfords in my front yard. They are beautiful trees, but they are also one giant pain you-know-where. I spend most of my yard working hours trimming branches from these two trees. The branches must be thinned out or eventually they will break off or the trunk will split.

I now view my Bradfords as two giant weeds that keep growing wild in my yard. I love their shade and their spring flowers, but they really are very high maintenance. So if I were you, being as though one of them is rather sickly, I'd have them taken out. That's what I'm thinking of doing with mine.

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This tree is one of the most pernicious weed trees in the eastern US now. Use any tree but it. They infest natural areas and are hard to eradicate. If you are thinking of getting rid of Bradford pears, good for you.

Find a nursery that provides more appropriate trees for your area that don't create problems. If you have the supplier who knows his stuff, get native trees -- resistant to disease, tolerant of local climates, low maintenance, support local fauna.

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Follow-up: For those who might know more about these trees, I also have a more specific question. One of the two trees I have is sickly-looking (fire blight, I think). The entire tree seems to be wilting, is dropping some leaves, and generally doesn't look happy. The other tree had a large split happen during a storm last year that caused it to lose a slice of about 1/4 of its its canopy.

Question 2: Given this situation, should I give up on these trees and have them taken out, and start over, or should I try to save them? I have heard arguments for both sides from neighbors and friends already.

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Thanks for the quick answers. I'm in northern AL, zone 7(b). I've been contemplating replacing the bradfords with maples, the only downside is that I'll lose any and all shade to the east/front of the house for a few years at least.

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I am so jealous of you guys. I live in the desert at high elevation and my yard is sand and rocks. I planted an Arizona ash last two years ago and I was so in love with that tree! It was growing super fast, was shaped like a perfect shade tree, turned pretty colors in the fall. But it died over the winter, it's trunk split by either our brief freeze or high winds (or both). So I've put a scrawny little mesquite in its place. It's growing very fast, and mesquites can be very beautiful trees, but right now it is a pale reminder of my beautiful ash. I thought I'd lost the palo verde I'd planted to the freeze but it is struggling back. The pistache is the only tree I have (so far, fingers crossed) successfully kept alive. On topic, we can grow ornamental pears if we baby them. But for the third year running, mine has been destroyed by leaf-cutter bees. I don't know whether to let it try another year or put it out of its misery. At this point it's only about a foot tall.

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There are a ton of Bradford pear trees in my area. They're pretty in the spring when they are bloom, grow fairly quickly and do provide a good amount of shade. They seem to be a favorite with the builders who are required to put that one tree right in the middle of the front yard of the houses they build. My neighborhood is just starting to get to the point where the trees are reaching full height and maturity, so we're good...for now. In half a dozen years or so, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of houses with dead/dying/recently replaced trees.

My "starter tree" died early and I replaced it with a Chinese Pistachio (no nuts, no flowers, but it does turn a nice shade of red in the early fall). It's a great tree. Moderately fast growing but longer life than a lot of other trees. Drought and disease resistant and with a nice, full canopy that provides some good shade despite having smaller leaves.

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@ki4rxm: There are faster growing varieties, lumberers call them soft maples, but they're also known as silver maples. Keep in mind those are prone to splitting during their growth so you'll have to be very conscious about pruning them. Unfortunately you'll lose the shade... but tulip trees grow fast, if those are native to your area (I have no idea myself, but your local nursery should!) they're a good option for a faster growing tree.

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@figgers3036: Ugh silver maples are awful. They drop limbs all the time, they have those annoying helicopter seed pods that cause baby maples to grow all over your entire yard every spring and they have large surface roots everywhere. I had three in my yard, now I'm down to just one thankfully. Their only upsides are they provide good shade and they grow really fast. But I'd never recommend them to anyone unless they just wanted 'junk trees' for fast shade.
For a fast growing, sturdy tree I'd go with a northern red oak. The downfall to that one is the acorns, but I heard those don't start coming in until the tree is about 15 years old.
Just my two cents :)

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Personally, the only way I'd consider adding a bradford pear is if I needed a fast growing shade tree, it was free, and I didn't plan on being in my house for more than 10 years or so. They have such short life-spans and can end up costing you more money by splitting and having to be cut down at an early age. One good ice storm around here and the tree is history. Bradford pears are very pretty, I can see how people would like them, they just aren't for me.

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@tippypaws: I agree, silver maples aren't ideal. They don't have a good solid taproot but spread all over and can cause problems with heaving roots. The pods you'll get with any good, fertile maple, I see that with sugar maples all the time. They're better than bradfords at least...

Oaks are great trees, but unfortunately they're slow. I dunno if there are any good for AZ myself, but I'm not a huge botanist... maybe a wooter from down there would know if there's a good oak option for you? Keep in mind that they're slow growers though, and will kill any grass underneath - their leaves are great at destroying any plant life under them. I don't know if that's what you want or not.

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I don't like them, and I sure wouldn't start fresh with them.

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They WILL let you down as they get older, if you plan on staying where you are now, get rid of them before they split, and destroy something else when they fall.

If you will be moving soon, then let the new owner deal with them!

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@figgers3036: AL, not AZ. Otherwise I'd be recommending Arizona Ash, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Pistache and Desert Willow (although some people don't like Desert Willow as they are messy). I don't know if AL is too cold for those trees. But Arizona ash is am amazingly fast growing shade tree. I lost a beautiful baby one of these:
http://www.moonvalleyvegas.com/arizona-ash.html

Mesquites are also fast growing and gorgeous, but not as shady. I replaced it with a baby one of these.
http://www.moonvalleyvegas.com/chilean-mesquite.html

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@moondrake: Oh wow, that's a pretty huge difference! Definitely a huge misread on my part.

From my admittedly limited southern tree experience, if you want a nice, pretty flowering tree you could try for a cherry tree or a magnolia, the magnolia might even be native to your area. And if you have a friend whose lawn/yard you really like, you could probably get some great advice from them.

Maybe try to aim for avoiding any sort of bore or blight in your area, since handling those things if they're in your area is a huge pain.