Bottom of the Botanical Barrel


Consider this a public service announcement/soapbox lecture from your favorite Landscape Architect (unless you are one of my readers who is also an LA, then I don’t have to be your favorite). This time of year, beginning of spring, I drive in to work thinking of two things:

1. I sure love spring!

2. WHY oh WHY on God’s green earth, do so many people still plant those damn Bradford Pear trees?

They are not good trees. This is not just my (educated) opinion, this is fact. Consider that on a list of trees for Kansas City, complied by an extremely knowledgeable local LA* by interviewing certified arborists, urban foresters, extension agents, nurserymen, and researchers that the number one lowest rated tree** is the Bradford Pear. This tree is total crap.

It stinks (opinion), the flowers are not pretty compared to magnolias, crabapples, dogwoods, heck most anything else that flowers (opinion) but they are short lived (fact), horribly branched (fact), weak (fact), and have no redeeming features whatsoever save the one week out of the year that it produces ugly, stinky flowers.

Why on earth would you plant one of these trees? Because it was on sale on Home Depot? Please don’t buy trees from Home Depot.

Don’t plant this tree. You don’t have to cut it down if you are unfortuntate enough to have one on your property (I would though), but let’s not add more Brandford Pears to the world. If you need tree suggestions, I would love to offer my opinion. My educated opinion.

That’s all. One more week and these botanical atrocities won’t be so obvious and I won’t hyperventilate on my drive in to work.

* I want to give credit where credit is due, but I don’t want my blog to be google-able. So, if you are curious I’ll give you the info.

**(The rest of the list of lowest rated trees, if you are curious: (2. Silver Maple, 3. Newport Plum, 4. Cottonwood, 5. White/Green Ash, 6. Amur Maple, 7. Green Hawthorn, 8. Black Locust, 9. Sweetgum (AMEN and AMEN!!!!), 10. Red Maple.)***

***If you want to know why, don’t be shy about asking. Or you can just take our collective word for it.


5 responses »

  1. Oh my goodness- it is so ironic you should post this today. I have spent a.l.l. morning arguing with my husband via text message about how I do not want to plant bradford pears in our yard. (Maybe arguing is a strong term, I've been fighting his insistence and am about a text away from giving in) His argument is that they don't get very big, but taller than the fence, they grow quickly, and we can get them from the local hardware store for $7 a pop(near springfield, mo). Our dilemma: our house is right next to the city road district. The city was nice enough to put up a privacy fence between us and them, but you can still see the machinery and barns over the top of the fence. We want to plant some small to mid-size trees along the fence line, and he is set on Cleveland pears. I dislike the smell and having to clean up after the trees we already have (not bradford or cleveland) after a semi-strong wind blows. I've suggested crab apples (he doesn't like them) and dogwoods (they don't grow very fast). What are your thoughts on redbuds and THANK YOU for the Magnolia idea. I had not thought of that and I prefer them to the pear trees. But I don't have a very green thumb so whatever we plant, I hope I don't kill them.

  2. I can't recommend a specific tree without knowing more about your cultural conditions but in general?Redbuds are good, Whitebuds too if you can find them, and magnolias. Other good small trees are White Fringetree, Trident Maple, and one of my favs- Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. Many fast growing trees are all weak-wooded trees. Balance your desire for quick growth with the need for long term health. As is true in virtually every aspect of life, you will get what you pay for. No matter the tree you are after, I can't stress enough the importance of buying from a reputable nursery who is providing locally grown trees. They have the best root systems, are acclimated to your climate, and will give you the best chance of long term success. Good luck, I hope you win the battle!

  3. If you want red bud trees I have all you want coming up everywhere in my flowergarden. Pretty for a while but they are not on my preference list. Every darn seed seems to grow where not wanted. Grandma Nelson

  4. That's so funny you posted about this! Erik and I were just talking about how bad Bradford Pear's smell when they're blooming. Glad to know I'm not the only one that thinks that! :)~ April

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