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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Every Thursday in July is “Family Night Out” at the gardens at Cheekwood. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner, and enjoy magic shows, puppet shows, live music and more, beginning at 6:30 p.m. July 3, Magic of America Magic Show; July 10, Dennis Scott: Kids Show; July 17, Nashville Puppet Truck presents The Frog Prince; July 24, Nashville Ballet, Degas and the Little Dancer; July 31, Mr. Greg’s Musical Madness. Find the complete schedule at www.cheekwood.org.

    Now - Sept. 7: Andy Warhol’s Flowers exhibit opens at Cheekwood. Nearly a dozen screen prints from the artist’s original Flowers series, paintings, studio photographs and more. Information: www.cheekwood.org.

    July 15: Perennial Plant Society meets at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall. Speaker is Nancy Murphy of the BellGarden at BellevueMiddle School; the topic is soil structure and fertility. Refreshments and plant swap at 6:30, the meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. www.ppsmt.org.

    July 24: Warner Park Nature Center presents “Butterflies of Tennessee” with author Rita Venable, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. 615-352-6299 to register for this adults-only class.

    July 26: Mid-State Iris Club’s annual iris rhizome sale, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (or until sold out) at Martin’s Home & Garden, 1020 NW Broad Street in Murfreesboro. All rhizomes marked with variety name, color and price, and prices range from $5 - $15.

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Banish the Bradford pear

QUESTION: When should Bradford pear trees be pruned? Is now a good time? How far back should you prune them?

Bradford pear trees are the first to flower in spring, but they are not a good choice for landscape trees.

I’ll answer the last question first, and echo the thoughts of many landscape and forestry experts who believe that these trees should get just one pruning cut – about an inch above the ground.

Seriously, Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana Bradford’) are not good landscape trees, no matter how lovely they are this time of year. They live fast and die young – a 25-year-old Bradford pear is probably near the end of its life. Because their heavy limbs grow at narrow angles, they tend to split apart. And because they shoot up so quickly and easily, this import from China has been placed on alert as a possible threat by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. So, is it time to reconsider?

But back to the question: It’s good to prune trees in late winter, while they’re still dormant. As you are no doubt aware if you’re in Middle Tennessee, “late winter” now seems to mean the same as “spring,” and most things are no longer dormant. So if you need to prune, do it now, before the tree leafs out fully and you can still see the branch structure easily.

Really, though, wouldn’t you rather have something else? Landscape professionals suggest a couple of good native alternatives to the Bradford pear: downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arboria), which has white flowers in spring, dark green foliage in summer and red berries in the fall; and Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), white flowers, green leaves, small blue-black fruit enjoyed by birds in the fall.

Either would be better than a Bradford pear, guaranteed.

 

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