Flowering Pear Trees

    • Plant sweet peas for bouquets of delightful blooms.
    • Lily of the valley is a sweet, shade-loving perennial that can be planted now from “pips” available at the nursery.
    • Forsythia, with its bright yellow flowers, is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring. Plant one in a sunny spot where you can enjoy its cheery flowers.
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and blue varieties.

Clouds of White: Flowering Pear Trees

Some of the first trees to bloom in the spring are the flowering pears. Clusters of snowy white pear blossoms cover the trees for several weeks as they announce the coming of spring. Tall and stately, these ornamental trees offer beauty throughout the growing season.

The best known ornamental pear is the ‘Bradford’ Pear, a cultivar which traces its roots back to Korea and China. The original seedling tree was brought to this country in 1919. It became popular in the 1960’s and was planted widely as street trees throughout the county. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that the angle of the Bradford’s branches is generally too narrow and an unpruned tree develops tightly-crowded branches which make the tree susceptible to damage from strong storms and snow loads.

As a result, new varieties have been developed which correct these weaknesses. Three fine new varieties are ‘Aristocrat’, ‘Chanticleer’ and ‘Redspire’. ‘Aristocrat’ replaces ‘Bradford’ growing to 40 feet tall and 28 feet wide. It is pyramidal in shape with open, spreading branches. The dark green leaves turn deep red in the fall. A fairly narrow, upright tree, ‘Chanticleer’ matures to a pyramidal or oval form up to 35 feet in height and about 15 feet wide. The glossy green leaves make it attractive even when the flowering is over, and in fall the leaves progress through shades of red, yellow and orange before reaching their ultimate burgundy color.

‘Redspire’ is a rounder form reaching 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Its flowers are larger than other varieties and the glossy, green foliage becomes a riot of color in the fall, turning red, yellow and orange at the same time.

Ornamental pears are susceptible to fireblight but to a lesser degree than fruiting pears. This disease causes the leaves and branch tips to turn black and look scorched or burned. However disease-resistance has been developed in some of these new varieties. In particular, ‘Chanticleer’ has shown very high resistance to the disease.

Plant ornamental pears in sunny locations where they have room to develop their characteristically symmetrical crowns. Although they adapt to a variety of soils, they perform best in well-drained locations and near-neutral or slightly acid soil. Avoid heavy applications of nitrogen fertilizer. Flowering pears are extremely tolerant of heat, drought, and compacted soil. They will actually produce fruit, but it is very tiny and usually disappears as bird food when the winter flocks come through.

With their spring flowers, glossy summer foliage, and deep fall color these trees are very desirable. They are excellent lawn or street trees. Select a hardy, disease-resistant cultivar with a form to suit your needs, and you will be rewarded with breathtaking bloom and flaming fall colors for years to come.

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