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Beginner Gardening Questions: Topping Bradford Pears

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Forum: Beginner Gardening QuestionsReplies: 23, Views: 218
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HersheyRed
Birmingham, AL

July 30, 2011
3:14 PM

Post #8725826

We have a row of 6 very healthy Bradford Pear trees at the bottom of our garden. They are 22 years old so I imagine they are fully grown by now. All the bad things you hear about Bradford Pears do not seem to have applied to our trees, they are absolutely spectacular in spring. They are at the bottom of a hill in a fairly sheltered position and have not followed the usual pear shaped design but more or less seem to have massed together. Apart from their beauty in spring and their exceptional leaf color in the fall, these trees also provide us with the privacy we need. In other words we are very reluctant to cut them down. But, and here's the rub, they have now grown so tall that they are obstructing our view of the mountains. What to do? If we employ someone to top them they really need to be reduced by more than a third, will that kill them, and if not, how quickly will they grow back up again to obstruct our view?
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

July 30, 2011
7:36 PM

Post #8726366

We have that same problem with our BP tree. One Arborist said he would never top them as they become weaker trees but I had another Tree Service out and they will do it and said it will look ugly for a year or so but that is now how people can save their Bradford Pears. Im not sure what I want to do. Love they shade but not sure I what is best to do with this kinda tree. They said they will live and grow back fine if topped just wonder what kinda tree we will then have and what it will look like in a year or two??

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

July 31, 2011
3:40 PM

Post #8728160

It is my understanding that "topping out" a Bradford pear (losing the tips of its branches) interrupts the hormonal cycle of the tree...therefore making it impossible for the tree to control the number of offshoots sprouting from the cut branches...this makes the tree denser and top heavy increasing the likelihood of splitting.

http://www.homeandgardenideas.com/gardening/trees/care/how-care-bradford-pear-trees

http://www.ppdl.purdue.edu/ppdl/expert/Bradford_Pear_Damaged.html

http://www.emmitsburg.net/gardens/articles/frederick/2002/bradford_pears.htm
HersheyRed
Birmingham, AL

August 2, 2011
10:40 AM

Post #8732064

Thank you themoonhowl. Those links were very useful.

Still trying to decide what to do. Before they grew so big we had the best of both worlds, our glorious view and these glorious trees. Now it seems to be a choice of one or the other, sacrifice the trees for the view, or lose the view and keep the trees. Anything we decide to have done to them will be an expensive job, it is difficult to get equipment down there to the bottom of the hill. I don't know how it could be done! A bucket truck could never get down there and the trees do not have a central thick trunk sturdy enough for climbers.

What to do? What to do??? She wails...

This message was edited Aug 3, 2011 6:31 AM

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

August 2, 2011
11:05 AM

Post #8732109

You may consider taking out a couple of the trees toward the center of the line...a process that could be done a step at a time by removing smaller branches and trunks until you get down to the larger trunks. Then paint all the cuts (as soon as they are made) with straight round-up or a chemical NAA,(napthalene acetate) the active ingredient in the product called "sucker stopper". That would thin the line out. then remove some of the whole smaller trunks on the remaining trees.

http://www.montereylawngarden.com/pdf/suckerstopperconcentrate0902m.pdf
HersheyRed
Birmingham, AL

August 3, 2011
5:39 AM

Post #8733804

Thank you Moon, that is something to consider...

And thanks for the great links. Your input is greatly appreciated :)

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

August 3, 2011
7:18 AM

Post #8733995

You are more than welcome. I hope they were of good use to you.
jensmothers
Tupelo, MS

August 8, 2011
9:53 AM

Post #8744230

Well, I just lost one of my Bradford Pears last week in a sudden thunderstorm and high wind. It was quite a large tree, about 15 yr old, but it snapped off at about 6' level and landed right on my new backyard fence, which will now have to be replaced or repaired. It is sad to see such a full beautiful tree go down, and I know it was home to many of our backyard birds, as well. In the past 10 years, we have lost at least 4-5 Bradford Pears in high winds so the longevity isn't looking too good!

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

August 8, 2011
10:32 AM

Post #8744380

They are a very brittle lot. My neighborhood was heavily planted with them...seems almost every yard had them. Hurricane Gustav wreaked havoc on them and most were removed and replaced with Crapemyrtles. The few remaining are full of short leafy sprouts making the trees very top heavy.
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

August 10, 2011
4:43 AM

Post #8748131

This makes me wonder if keeping mine is worth the $350 thinning and trimming fee. Our arbortist will not top them at all. He said they look ugly and makes a weaker tree then what they are now. Topping does reduce the size though and one would think you could get more years out of the tree that way. Ours is16 years olds now and very big by our driveway. I love it for its shade so we have decided to try to maintain it with thinning and trims every other year. Just wonder how much more time we will get out of it. We looked into replacing it but trees take so long to grow and a new tree would never give us that kinda shade. Tough desicion on keeping and mantaining or taking them down.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

August 10, 2011
7:06 AM

Post #8748320

They tend to not be very long lived to begin with and at 22 yrs for HersheyRed and 16 yrs for jess2132000 yours are probably older than many Bradfords ever get to be, so you may not get many more years out of them. For Hershey--since you've got multiple trees, you might consider taking some of them out now and starting other trees in their place (ones that won't get as tall and block your view). That way hopefully they'll have a few years to get going and then when the Bradfords need to go you'll already have something else there. For jess--how big is your yard? Obviously since you only have 1 tree you can't use that same approach, but if you've got a large enough yard and don't mind having your shade in a slightly different place eventually you could also plant another tree now to give it some years (hopefully) to grow before the Bradford needs to come down, that way you won't be without shade for as long once it does go.
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

August 12, 2011
6:29 PM

Post #8752858

ecrane really like your idea but we live on a small yard with many other houses around us. Im am torn we love the shade. The arborist we have gave us a quote of 350 to trim it back and thin it again this year. He also suggested digging a two foot trench and putting tarp paper in to stop the roots from cracking the driveway even more. That is $150 for that. I feel if we left the tree go for another year or two Im just afraid the driveway will sufford more. We may just have the work done to it but not sure how many more years we will get out of this tree.Some say take it down others say its a nice shade tree and you will miss such a big tree once gone. Augh never a easy decision. Wondering if having them thinned all those years helped it from cracking. Never really sure..

Thumbnail by jess2132000
Click the image for an enlarged view.

HersheyRed
Birmingham, AL

September 12, 2011
1:26 PM

Post #8805397

Jess, I know how you feel. That is a beautiful specimen tree you have there. It feels like having to take the dog to be put down! Just like losing an old faithful friend. In our case, old faithful FRIENDS, they have served us so well.

Thank you ecrane3 for your suggestion. I think we will do that, take some down, and - wait for it - plant some more Bradford Pears in their place. I can hear your sharp intake of breath... but since it has taken 22years for these to get to the size they are at now, we will have a long time to enjoy the new lot before they are blocking our view, and like replacing the dog with another of the same breed it will help us to get over our grief. Thanx everyone.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

September 12, 2011
5:58 PM

Post #8805813

As long as you're not expecting your new Bradfords to last 22 yrs...they tend to be pretty short-lived so the lifespan of your current ones is not the norm. The good news is the new ones may never get large enough to block your view, the bad news is you may need to replace them much sooner than you would have hoped!

flowAjen

flowAjen
central, NJ
(Zone 6b)

September 12, 2011
10:02 PM

Post #8806193

Cleveland Select are supposed to be hardier than the Bradford, but why not just replace with another flowering tree? plum or cherry?

We lost 3 Bradfords within a few months of each other... all about 25 years old...
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

October 18, 2011
5:10 PM

Post #8854574

Just had the arborist out to cut back our Bradford Pears. I was surprised as I did not think he liked to top Bradfords but his workers came out did this tree. Looks like it was topped to me. Am I wrong or right? You can see they reduced the size but we are very happy to try to keep the tree and this hopefully will help it from splitting. Happy with its look now like it on the smaller size really.Hoping in spring it will look like a lollie pop again with lots of white blooms.

Thumbnail by jess2132000
Click the image for an enlarged view.

flowAjen

flowAjen
central, NJ
(Zone 6b)

October 19, 2011
5:26 AM

Post #8855157

Yep, looks topped to me
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

October 19, 2011
10:51 AM

Post #8855623

Ok thanks I thought so. We have always had the same guy thin/prun them over the years but it was getting so large we had to decide weather we wanted it taken out or topped. (I really did not want it coming down on a car) so that all said it may not aways be best for the tree but since we get them prunned alot anyway. Hoping we can keep this one a few more years with no splitting problems. Maybe in a few years we may have to replace them but hoping to get more time out of them. Wind and ice storms always worried me.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

November 1, 2011
4:20 PM

Post #8872367

jess, he may not 'like ' to top Bradfords, but he also 'likes' to have paying work. Not saying he's a bad guy, it doesn't look as drastic as some 'tops' I've seen. He can come back and thin...another paying job.
But I have seen so many broken, split out, Bradfords...huge chunks fall out from a storm. Let's just say don't park your car under it any bad weather.

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

November 1, 2011
7:08 PM

Post #8872637

The trouble with pruning trees this way is that you'll get a whole bunch of little branches starting to grow out near those cut ends. Let those go for a few years, and it's going to make those branches really top-heavy because they're holding up all those new branches that grew out of the ends, and that can make the branches more likely to break/split. Unless of course you have them come out regularly and re-prune just as they did here to get rid of those newly sprouted branches before they get too big.
TreeLogic

February 16, 2013
10:03 AM

Post #9420919

ecrane and moonhowl, I agree. you guys sound like you know your stuff. jess2132000, honestly no, that doesn't look topped. you could argue the point but it all depends on whether he cut back to viable lateral shoots, or limbs. If he did, that would be a "crown reduction". If you cut back to bear stubs, with no foliage whatsoever at the tip, that's topping. Horrible for the tree. Nothing left to feed the remaining mass of wood left on the tree. No food equals rot, then death. Or a hazardous situation at least. Looks to me like they left plenty of foliage on your tree. As for blooming the following season; fruit trees, if i remember correctly bloom off of last years wood. this means the pear would have to grow new green shoots, which wouldn't bloom until they survived for a year, and became more "woody". Crape myrtles on the other hand bloom off of this year's wood. The more new shoots they have, generally the blooms they'll have. crown reductions aren't pretty but they serve a purpose without needless injury. from the pictures i've seen and what he's told you, your arborist seems to know what he's doing.

Bradford's? One of my first favorites. Early bloom, spectacular fall color, and great looking canopy in the summer. Yes, they have a lot of assets, like many fast growing trees. Problem is, a light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. 30 years, about as old as I've seen for a bradford, and that's NOT the norm. For me, take em out now. Plant something that will last lifetimes. But plant something that is right for the location. Don't plant tall trees under utility lines and make sure there's room for them to grow, based on each tree's genetic habits. This way you, won't have to watch the slow painful death of your beloved specimen, won't delay the inevitable, and you'll get a head start on your next great tree.

moonhowl - "painting the cuts" - as a rule, most arborists dont like to paint cuts with anything, except under very special circumstances. reason being, many of the substances on the market can interfere with the proper healing of branch collars and such. when our company makes a large cut, for aesthetic purposes only, we'll mix some loamy soil with say a quarter of a bottle of drinking water until we get a mud. we'll then rub that on the cut, eliminating the shock of seeing the large, properly-made cut to the untrained eye. for bradfords, your advice doesn't worry me much, but I wouldn't want the readers to think it a good idea to use for any other tree.

ISA Certified Arborist

This message was edited Feb 16, 2013 12:45 PM
jess2132000
Harleysville, PA

May 18, 2013
5:46 PM

Post #9525266

I had to post back on this topic since its now June 2013. The bradford that I had topped (or whatever was done.) looks so pretty now. It is getting big again but not so big that it needs cut back again as of yet. The problem I have now is with the 2nd Bradford that was never topped yet which in back further in the yard. It will need to be topped or cut back since its size it really getting too big for that location and the neighbor on my left does not like leaves on her lawn. Not that I have any control of that but the tree is getting wide and I though maybe topping it could reduce the size for a few more years.(Thats not gonna control the leaf issue but...) I love the trees shade they both give and they look nice now but they will need maintance every few years to keep them. At some point we may have to take them down but I love the shade they give in the summer. The white flowers are still pretty in the spring as well. I would say the tree out front of our yard is now going on 20 years.

themoonhowl

themoonhowl
Prairieville, LA
(Zone 9a)

May 18, 2013
6:10 PM

Post #9525290

[quote="TreeLogic"]

moonhowl - "painting the cuts" - as a rule, most arborists dont like to paint cuts with anything, except under very special circumstances. reason being, many of the substances on the market can interfere with the proper healing of branch collars and such. when our company makes a large cut, for aesthetic purposes only, we'll mix some loamy soil with say a quarter of a bottle of drinking water until we get a mud. we'll then rub that on the cut, eliminating the shock of seeing the large, properly-made cut to the untrained eye. for bradfords, your advice doesn't worry me much, but I wouldn't want the readers to think it a good idea to use for any other tree.

ISA Certified Arborist

This message was edited Feb 16, 2013 12:45 PM[/quote]

Somehow I missed this post. Allow me to clarify...The "Painting the cut" was in reference to removing trees from an existing tree line. The mediums suggested for use were Round Up or Sucker Stop...to KILL the stumps of the removed trees to prevent re-sprouting...not for use on trees being pruned. The application of either of those would/could be lethal to the tree.

Moon

Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 21, 2013
7:23 AM

Post #9528228

I also have run into 'the neighbor who does not like the falling leaves'.

HUMPH! Move to the desert! There are no trees to drop leaves!

I would not prune a tree to keep a neighbor like that happy!

My Father owns some property which is next door to some apartments. Pretty close to the property line were some trees. The trees had destroyed the drain line, and were tearing up the concrete on both sides of the property line. Definitely the wrong plant in the wrong place! The owner of the apartments was always complaining about having to rake leaves. We explained that the trees were helping to cool her place, and so on. She did not like the trade off. In spite of all the benefits of trees, she still wanted them all gone. When we took out the problem trees, leaving one that was not a problem the tenants in her apartments complained. Their doors faced west, and the trees had shaded their entries from both the sun and the wind. The people living in my Dad's place were worried that we were going to cut down even the tree that is not a problem. We certainly did not! Sure there are leaves, but there is also shade, dust reduction, screening, something nicer to look at, and all the other benefits of trees.
And that neighbor still has to rake leaves! Even with the trees gone that were on the property line, leaves blow from all around the neighborhood, and end up on everyone elses property.

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