Lunch Bunch
Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

When A Good Tree. . . Goes Bad

"If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees." ** -- Hal Borland

We have many trees on our small plot here in suburbia.  We inherited them all when we bought our house, save the one lovely tri-colored beech we planted last year. . . and one tiny little Japanese maple I rescued from Lowe's last summer.

There is this one.


It is a Bradford pear tree.  Oddly placed near our driveway, kind of just randomly there. . .in the center of our side yard.

The tree has always been of questionable value.  It gets lovely, white blossoms in the spring -- but those blossoms smell really bad.  They reek, in fact.  Like. . . you get out of your car (being right there, next to the driveway) and say, "What's that SMELL????"  And then you remember.  It's the tree.

You'd think that, being a pear tree, that it would bear . . . fruit.  And it does.  But not the lovely pear you may be imagining.  It produces little, tiny pears that look like this:


The squirrels love them.  (Chipmunks, too.)  About this time of year, the little pear-ish fruits get ripe and sort of soft.  They drop.  Onto the driveway.  Where people track them into the house on their shoes.  Or they drop down onto visiting cars.  Or a storm comes and hurls them against visiting cars, making a horrible mess that people have to work really hard to remove (right, Dad?).

In the fall, the leaves on this tree are lovely; kind of a deep burgundy red.  The problem is . . .the leaves don't change color and drop until very late in the season.  I mean very late.  Like . . . Thanksgiving.  Most years, we have snow on the ground before the leaves drop.  (Trust me, no one wants to deal with fall leaves AND snow.)  The charm of the lovely leaves is completely lost when the time for snow is upon us!

There is also the problem with placement.  I have written here more than once that our yard has extreme geographic limitations, being built on a cross-slope hill.  As you can see from the photo above, the pear tree was planted right in the center of the ONLY level area of our yard (being next to the driveway).  The tree distracts from our being able to USE that level space.  Can't play frisbee; throw a lacrosse ball; or pitch a tent for a party.  Because of the tree.

But, still.  We liked the tree.  We enjoyed the company of the tree.  We took a deep breath before getting out of the car when the tree was in bloom, and we threw the frisbee in the street.

Then, in July, there was a huge storm that came through our area, knocking down several trees in our neighborhood.  (Even sending several crashing through roofs.)  We breathed a sigh of relief when we got home that day -- because all of our trees were still standing.

About a week later, though, I came back from the gym to find a huge branch from the pear tree blocking the driveway.  No storm.  No apparent reason.  Must have been delayed storm damage.


(Unforunate street view.)  Tom (excitedly) made quick work of the big branch with his trusty chainsaw, and all was well.  Although, as a Master Gardener, I knew this


was gonna be trouble!  Trees don't suffer damage like this -- and recover.  I knew it was Only a Matter of Time for the Bradford Pear.

What we didn't realize right away, though, was that the tree was suffereing from another serious problem.  Yep, once a huge portion of the tree was gone, the balance shifted. . . and exacerbated a pre-existing split in the trunk.



You're not supposed to be able to see . . . grass. . . through the trunk of your tree.  It was clear that our Bradford Pear. . . was going to have to go!

Fortunately, there wasn't any danger of the tree hitting our house.  Or anyone else's house, either.  But you probably wouldn't want to park your car in our driveway! 

We thought about waiting . . . to just see what would happen next.  But I know that one bad winter storm or one ice storm would do this tree in.  And, really, who wants to deal with a tree coming down in the winter!  (Somehow I'm sure that would be worse than dealing with the leaves.)

So we called in the cavalry.



They made quick work of the the Bradford Pear.


It made my heart ache a little, to see a big tree like that come down.  But you can see from the stump that it was not a healthy tree.


So, goodbye Bradford pear!  No more messy fruit.  No more smelly blossoms.  But don't be thinking we'll have a place to play frisbee. . . because this gardener is already plotting and planning what to do with that new, level, EMPTY spot of lawn!


** But NOT the Bradford pear!  There are some lovely trees that are not recommended for home landscapes.  The Bradford pear is one of those trees.  While they do have a lovely shape and are fast-growing, there are numerous problems (as we've experienced) with them.  Not all trees are created equal in the home landscape!


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It's always sad to lose a tree but given your circumstances with this one I'd say it's a blessing in disguise.


It's amazing how healthy it looked even with what looks like some pretty severe problems! Can't wait to see what you do with the space.


You spend time with your troubled tree and tried to see it through all it's ups and downs. You gave it your all. Now, you get a chance to do what you like with its and know you gave the tree all you could.


Great post Kym. Sad to see the tree go but it will be fun to see what you do with the area!


We've an apple tree that is somewhat the same situation. Good but annoying at the same time. It's 3/4 dead now so it will be bye bye to it next summer.
Enjoy your plotting and planning for your new (level!) ground. :D


The Saga Of The Bradford Pear Tree. Well told, Kim, and well illustrated. Can't wait to see what that space becomes!

Diana Troldahl

We have 9 trees on our small city lot.
Mostly maple, and that's not counting the (really huge) blackthorn and red buds.


I hated that tree...mostly because of the squishy fruit pelting that occurs when I come home around Thanksgiving. I have no doubt that next spring you'll be turning that former tree spot into something much better (also less offensive to the nose and car). :)


It was a mercy killing. ;^)


LOVE the comments that came before me and adding mine to pile of "agrees"... you made the right decision! (and I do wonder every spring why those blooms stink like that- I mean really, what's the point?!)

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