Spring is finally here, and with it a flurry of activities in the garden. It is a time for removing the remains of last year’s garden and a time to plan and plant the best garden ever. It is a time for tearing out and a time for starting new projects. It is also a time to enjoy the garden. Do not get so busy with the work to be done that you do not take time to sit in a swing and admire your garden.
A major take-out project was completed at Sandhill Gardens last week. An ornamental pear tree that I had been trying to get removed was taken down. I know that I will have to keep cutting back suckers, but the invasive tree is finally gone. It was not always such a pest. When I planted the small Cleveland Select pear tree many years ago, it was being touted as an answer to a major landscaping problem. The world of ornamental pear trees had begun years ago with the introduction of the Bradford pear. It grew into a medium-sized tree with a nice shape and had eye-catching blooms in the spring. Many estate drives were planted with rows of Bradford pears. The tree became the darling of the landscaping world. Cities planted the beautiful pear trees in tree plots and on medians. They were looking for the look of the Japanese cherry blossoms of Washington D.C., but with a tree that was more affordable and required less maintenance.
However, the starlette had a fatal flaw. As the trees matured, the branch crotches exhibited weak unions and ice and wind often resulted in falling limbs. It did not take long for the beautiful, rounded canopies to look more like snags. Still, those estate owners had been charmed by the flowering-tree-lined drives. Plant breeders got busy trying to develop a solution. In a few years, new ornamental pears were introduced, the most promising being the Cleveland Select and Chanticleer pears. They had more conical shapes, but did have the beautiful spring blooms that were craved. They also did not have the Bradford’s weak branch joints.
All of these trees had been bred for their flowers and not for fruit. The Bradford was considered to be sterile. However, like many other fruit trees, cross-pollination is necessary for the production of fruit. Up to this point, there had been no pollinator for the Bradford Pear. The introduction of the new varieties changed that. Suddenly, small berry-sized fruits were produced on the ornamental pears. That still did not seem to be a problem. After all, the birds seemed to love eating the fruit. That is about the time I splurged to purchase a fairly large Cleveland Select pear tree.
The digestive tracts of birds do not always digest everything eaten. As the birds ate the fruit, the seeds were not digested and were deposited with the bird droppings. Soon, little ornamental pear trees were coming up everywhere. They grow pretty rapidly, and soon, these non-native trees were crowding out the native trees on which the wildlife depend. That is the very definition of an invasive species.
Eradicating an invasive species is not an easy task. I have done only a small part by having the offending tree cut. I have already cut down several saplings that I have found growing and will probably have to continue doing so for many years. I also am using this column to urge others to refrain from planting ornamental pear trees and to remove any that they presently have.
That brings us full circle. What can be planted to produce the desired rows of flowering trees along driveways? Choose something native. My favorite recommendation is the native serviceberry tree. I think the flowers are actually more beautiful than those of the pear trees. The bonus is tart fruits in mid-June, which are enjoyed by people and wildlife. Once difficult to find in nurseries, they have become m