November 25, 2011

Replacement Tree - suggestions

This is my pear tree, Pyrus calleryana  --- this is the best it has looked since I planted it in 2005:

It came down in the freaky October snowstorm that buried southern New England and tore down so many trees.  The Bradford pears are weak wooded and prone to falling apart, and they did not survive the heavy snow.

Other types of trees recovered from having their branches weighted to the ground in the snow, but the pear did not.  Here is mine, the day after the storm.  The drooping limbs did not pop back up when the snow melted, they snapped off or tore apart.

It was a good sized specimen, about 25 feet tall, standing alone in the side yard.  But I never liked it, so I was not too upset when the branches broke off and we had to take the rest of it down.

I never liked it because it did this all the time --- it suckered.  I cut back the sprouts a dozen times a season and they were always there the next week.

I never liked it because it was an ungainly, odd-branched shape, although other Bradford pears do have tightly pyramidal, shapely forms.  This one did not.

I never liked it because it did not develop any fall color.  Other Bradford pears are known for good deep color very late in the season, but this one just turned an indeterminate brown-green color with overtones of mustard.

It had its moments.

There were showy white flowers that covered the bare branches in early in spring.  There were fruits that the birds devoured each year in one single day, swarming the tree and stripping it bare in three hours.

But it's gone now, and I am okay with that.  More than okay.  In fact, I am excited about planting a replacement and I need suggestions.

This is an open area of the yard, to the east side of the house, not tied to any gardens as you can see in the pictures.  I want a large tree, a looker, a presence to fill the grassy lawn.

Suggestions?  It doesn't need to be a flowering tree, but it needs to look good standing alone, sited in between the flat boring side of the house and the flat weedy meadow on the other side.

And it needs to hold up in a snowstorm.


  1. Hi Laurie - I lost my pear tree last year too, and it was looking so bad the last couple of years it was a relief to get it down as well.

    I can't quite tell how far from the house it is, but if far enough away, how about a tulip poplar?

    I bought a sapling from the conservancy sale here in the spring and its shooting up very quickly.

  2. What about a northern red oak? The squirrels would love the acorns and they're tough trees.

  3. Here's a website that might be helpful.

  4. Hi Laurrie, Sometimes we just need an excuse to finally act. The freak snow storm seems to have provided the perfect reason to get rid of the pear tree you really didn't like, but were tolerating. My knowledge of trees is limited and I do not have any great suggestions for you. All I can say is don't plant a Black Walnut that is unless you want to spend hours and hours picking up greasy, black nuts. I like Tammy's suggestion of a Northern Oak. Have a great and happy Thanksgiving.

  5. I have two more trees to suggest: a silver linden or a sourwood tree.

  6. Oh, I love spending other peoples' money!! If I were to replace that tree it would be with a PrairieFire Crab or Kentucky Coffee Tree. Get your purse, I'll meet you at the nursery!

  7. Some great tree suggestions!

    Tracey, I love my young tuliptrees that I planted out back, actually loved past tense, as one succumbed to deer and the other was lost in the snowstorm, completely toppled over. I do want to replant, but it is too close to the house for such a big tree in that spot. They are very fast growers and I love the leaves!

    Tammy, a northern red oak is a wonderful tree. Are the acorns messy? Jim will have to mow this area under it. A silver linden or a sourwood are beauties. I might actually transplant the small sourwood I have to this spot. Hmmmm, could I manage to dig and move it?

    Jennifer, I hate to admit it, but the storm was the excuse I needed to remove a tree I didn't like!

    Sissy, The crabapples are gorgeous, but they get rust here and it defoliates them. Doesn't kill them, but they end up looking not great. A coffeetree... I am really intrigued. Would it thrive in zone 5? Must go do some research.

  8. Laurrie, I have spent more time than I care to mention looking at trees in the last two years as we try to plant up our empty lot. We're the same zone I think so some of my 'wish list trees' might be useful to you (in fact I've been coveting some of the trees you've planted). Northern Catalpa has flowers and huge leaves which are ornamental and may even be native in your location? also grows quite quickly. Fringe Tree (Chionanthus) is a smallish tree, north american native and described as 'far better than bradford pear' at my local nursery website! I have a soft spot for Ginkgos but this might be too large for your site? Japanese Snowbell is a dainty thing full of white blooms (Styrax japonica) and I'm seriously considering purchasing a Katsura next spring. Persian Parrotia has great bark as well as spring and fall colour. okay I'll stop there. A note about the Kentucky Coffee Tree, they offer partial shade so grass will still grow beneath them and is good to zone 4 (Gymnocladus dioicus). Keep us posted.

  9. Marguerite has some great suggestions! Fringe tree is gorgeous. I've never transplanted a tree so I have no idea if the sourwood would survive the move. It all depends on how big its rootball is. I think it would have a higher survival rate if transplanted in the fall rather than the spring.

  10. How about a Liquidamber? Great pyramidal shape, interesting textured bark and fantastic autumn colour. Just not sure how resistant they are to snow storms.

  11. Laurrie, How about a native river birch (Betula nigra). Even though it doesn't flower, it will be a stately presence year round in your garden. It grows fairly quickly, has good yellow fall color and the exfoliating bark is a fantastic winter feature. Plus it supports 100's of species of native insects (including butterflies) and is deer resistant.

  12. Marguerite, one of the things that attracted me to your blog initially was all the tree research you were posting. Good to know about the hardiness of the coffee tree and the leaf pattern. I just never see them planted around here at all, I wonder why. The fringe tree and the styrax have been on my list for ages! Maybe this is the opportunity.

    Tammy, You are right about transplanting in the fall where you are, but New England and north it's iffy. We do much better (and my own planting bears it out) when planting in spring. We have short, abrupt autumns and roots don't establish, but we have looooong, miserably interminable springs that give them time to get going better it seems.

    Lyn, a sweetgum was on my list to put in the front yard where the black gum is now. A real specimen tree for all the reasons you state. A looker! But Jim could not deal with the gumballs that drop in the lawn. I do have three liquidambars out in the meadow in back where we don't mow --- gorgeous, and they hold leaves into late fall. One fell apart after the snow storm but the other two survived fine. I do love this tree, just not in a lawn.

    Debbie, I have river birches planted all over, on the berm, in the back garden, and out in the middle of the lawn, and as you note, they are beautiful. Love the bark! I could do another in this spot and get repetition and visual rhythm by repeating a plant throughout the property. I need to think if that would work or if I should go for an individual specimen look that would be different. Design cohesion is not my strength . . .

  13. I love a lot of the suggestions here. How about a Gingko Biloba or a Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree)? Katsura is a multi-stem tree usually, not sure if that is what you want though.

  14. You got lots of suggestions and no one said maples for great fall color and bark interest. Some are sterile so no helicopters. They are thirsty trees though, like the birch.

  15. I love my flowering dogwood, though I'm not sure if it's hardy in zone 5. The fall color is gorgeous and the spring flowers are AMAZING. I will be devastated if anything ever happens to mine.

  16. Sharon, The pear tree was planted right next to a young katsura tree on that side of the house. I do love it, and a second one might make the start of a katsura "allee"! Gingkos are such interesting trees too... that's a possibility.

    Donna, if I put a maple in there it might be a larger upright Japanese maple. Lots of choices for that.

    Heather, Flowering dogwoods do well here, in fact they were overplanted for years all around here. But such a lovely tree, and the one I have in front got damaged from the storm pretty badly. It is ok, but looking deformed. A new, nicely shaped one would be nice!

  17. I'm late to the discussion here, but I enjoyed reading all the suggestions. Sounds like you have lots of great ideas to mull over to replace the fallen Bradford pear!

  18. Boy, do I envy you the space and opportunity to plant a decorative tree! My vote is for a paperbark maple (acer griseum. Though it is a slow grower, it will get to 30 feet tall and has wonderful peeling bark for winter interest. Very attractive incised maple leaves provide fall color. Be sure to let us all know what you decide.

  19. If I had a spot like that I'd plant Ilex opaca (American Holly. Evergreen, good shape, native, little care, red or gold ... depending on the variety ... berrier and I've not seen any mature ones nibbled by deer. In my eyes it has it all.

  20. Rose, I am going to have fun all winter planning what to plant. There are so many suggestions!

    Lynn, I have a nice paperbark maple on the west side. Like the suggestion to plant a second dogwood, I could add a second paperbark to balance and repeat elements. Hmmm. It is a beautiful tree.

    Joene, I have always wanted an ilex opaca on my property since I saw a 40 foot tall one in a protected atrium at work that I loved, but nurseries told me our winters burn them too badly out in the open. They are zone hardy, but not wind or winter sun hardy. But you've grown them successfully. My site might be too open?

  21. Laurrie, I have just this year cleared enough space for my future Ilex opaca so I don't have first hand experience with them. However, they grow successfully in many yards in my area. Most that do well are in open, full sun exposures.

  22. Hi, if you want a truly elegant tree get a weeping European beech, fagus sylvatic pendula. be sure to get green tho it does come in a red color. Those reds are "ify" such as so many red maples that become brown-red. This is a gorgeous tree that stands alone. Check it out online...or play golf at Fern Hall, once the Johnson and Johnson estate in northeast Pennsylvania


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