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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Nov. 8: Fall Colors Bike and Hike at Shelby Bottoms, a bike/hike outing from the Nature Center to Stones River Farm (7 miles from the Nature Center) to enjoy fall colors, led by naturalist John Michael Cassidy. 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Participants should be comfortable riding 15+ miles. Registration required for this age 12-and-up activity, 862-8539.

    Nov. 8: Beekeeping 101 at Warner Park Nature Center, a workshop and overview of hobby beekeeping and how to start your own hive, and a presentation on bee biology. 9 a.m. – noon. Call to register for this adult-level workshop, 615-352-6299.

    Nov. 15: Great Gourds at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, to learn about this ancient, multi-purpose vegetable. 2 – 3 p.m.; registration required for this all-ages program, 615-862-8539.

    Nov. 22: ReLeafing Day with the Nashville Tree Foundation, volunteer to plant trees in the Cleveland and McFerrin Park neighborhoods in East Nashville. Tree planting is 8:30 a.m. – noon. Meet at Glenn Elementary on Cleveland Street. To learn more or to volunteer: www.nashvilletreefoundation.org.

    Nov. 28: Holiday at Cheekwood opens with a full schedule of holiday-theme events and a live poinsettia tree made up from more than 500 individual poinsettias. Holiday at Cheekwood runs through Dec. 31. The complete schedule is at www.cheekwood.org.

    Dec. 4: Organic Gardening at Warner Park Nature Center, 9 – 10:30 a.m. Naturalist Deb Beazley leads a session on how and when to begin planning, planting and growing an organic garden. 615-352-6299 to register.

    Dec. 4: Holiday at Cheekwood live greenery design workshop. Complete information at www.cheekwood.org.

    Dec. 5 – 7: Tennessee Local Food Summit with “Barefoot Farmer” Jeff Poppen at Vanderbilt University, hosted by Vanderbilt’s Health Plus. Seminar topics range from backyard gardening to nutrition, cooking and climate change. Complete details at http://tnlocalfood.com.

    Dec. 7: Holiday at Cheekwood wreath-making workshop. Complete information at www.cheekwood.org.

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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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