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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Now - Oct. 31: Cheekwood Harvest fall festival. Stroll the grounds at Cheekwood to see the scarecrows and outdoor model trains, visit the pumpkin patch, and take a look at more than 5,000 chrysanthemums in deep autumn colors in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden. Complete schedule details at www.cheekwood.org.

    Oct. 4: Happy Harvest at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Time to clean out the garden and put it “to bed” for the winter – and make ice cream flavors with the fall harvest. Noon – 2 p.m., registration required for this all-ages program. 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 9: “Sustainable Kitchen Gardening Year ’Round,” a workshop on growing edibles during the winter months, led by Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Cracked Pot Homestead in Franklin, Tenn. $45 per person. Also held on Oct. 11, 10 a.m. – noon. Register at www.cindyshapton.com.

    Oct. 11: Flower Fun at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Learn ways to use wilted flowers and petals in a workshop for age 13 and up, led by Sarah Gilmore. 1 – 2 p.m., registration required: 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 11: Farm Day at Bells Bend Park Outdoor Center, a family-friendly event with hayrides and farm games, farming equipment, barnyard animals and garden programs, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 615-862-4187.

    Oct. 17: Trees of Fall at Beaman Park Nature Center. Enjoy the colors of the autumn woods while you learn to ID trees based on color and other characteristics with naturalist LinnAnn Welch. 9:30 – 11 a.m. Call to register for this all-ages program,
    (615) 862-8580.

    October 21: Perennial Plant Society meeting topic is "Rain Gardens" with speakers from the Tennessee Environmental Council and the Harpeth River Watershed Association. Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7, open to the public. www.ppsmt.org.

    Oct. 24: Darling, You Look GOURDgeous! at Warner Park Nature Center. An activity for ages 3 – 5 years to learn about gourds, squashes and pumpkins, led by Rachel Koch. 10 – 11 a.m. or 1 – 2 p.m., registration opens Oct. 9. Call 615-352-6299 to register.

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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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