Bradford Pears must have been da bomb about 10 years ago because my neighborhood is infested with them. The problem is that they’re like the popular mean boy/girl you had a crush on in school — they look great but will tear your heart out and leave you all empty inside and then go out with your best friend. Okay maybe not that last part, but the first part for sure.
You probably know that they put on a brilliant show in the spring and fall but will split on you if they get ice on them or if the wind blows really hard or if you look at them funny. Boom, a limb is gone. Or half the tree. Or the whole dang thing seems to explode.
Some people try to put off the inevitable by trimming it back into a trunk with tiny nubs. Sure that keeps it from splitting, but it also keeps it from looking like a normal non-freaky tree. And it doesn’t bloom as well (or at all, from what I’ve seen). Others try to thin the interior branches, but that leaves weight at the end where foliage is, providing some nice branch-snapping torque. That seems to be what my neighbor did, and you can see how well that worked out.
You need a new tree? Don’t plant this one. Some recommend choosing a pear that has branches that are less susceptible to breaking (like an Aristocrat pear), but I’ve never tried that. You already have a Bradford Pear? Rip it out. That’s my advice — just chop it, grind it down, and get a new (different) tree. Sure the new fella will initially seem puny compared to the glorious but doomed Bradford, but you’ll be able to watch the new tree grow with the confidence that you won’t awake after an ice storm to find a large chunk of tree next to a large chunk of your roof lying on the ground where it shouldn’t be. Look at it this way: sports teams have “rebuilding years” where they kinda suck because the promising rookies need some seasoning, but after a few years, they turn it around. Same goes for your yard. It’s okay to get rid of the troublesome injure-prone veteran in favor of a sturdy rookie.
So why do I hate this tree, you might ask? I’ve never planted one myself, but my current house had a ten-year-old pear when I moved in. The grass under it was dead, and its surface roots looked like the Loch Ness Monster and his children were swimming across my yard. Oh, and after the first ice storm… well… some people say, “A picture is worth 1000 words.” (But then again, those people are either ignorant or have developed some amazing image-compression algorithms. Because by my calculations, an image uses way more storage than a mere 1000 words, depending on how you’re storing words (e.g. text or with MS Word-style formatting) and image quality, compression, and — huh? You say you don’t care? Right, right. Okay, so let’s just say, “A picture is worth an arbitrarily-large number of words, that number being significantly larger than 1000, but we’re not going to discuss the exact number because some people are too impatient to actually spend the time to –” Huh? Okay, nevermind! I’ll just get to it.)
This picture sums up how I feel about Bradford pears:
If that’s not enough, that pear tree fell onto a native Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus) that I had planted nearby. That smoke tree was to be the Bradford Pear’s replacement, and I think the pear took it out in a jealous rage. Little did it know that, although split in half, that smoke tree would survive and become one of my favorite plants in the yard (article soon).
So just say no.