Cutting Trees for Arbor Day?

Forgot about American Arbor Day this year?  It’s recognized on the last Friday in April (April 27th this year) but many states celebrate on their best tree planting date.  Still, you may decide to chop down a tree for Arbor Day rather than plant one.  Yes, that’s what I said — chop down a tree.

The first tree I planted over 20 years ago was a Bradford pear. Weeping and kwanzan cherry, rose of sharons, lilacs, flowering plum, weeping willow, star magnolia, Harry Lauder’s walking stick, redbud, and my beloved dogwoods followed.  Most thrived.  A few didn’t.

For years, I longed to line my driveway with more of those pretty Q-tip shaped, white flowering Bradford pear trees like I’d been admiring in other sweeping driveways.  Thankfully, I never got around to it, even though I lamented year-after year, “Think how big those trees would be by now.”

pear trees
CC BY-SA 3.0 Attribution: jwshaw

Certified Nurseryman and Arborist Durant Ashmore, who has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and over 30 years experience, says, “The Bradford pear is worse than kudzu.”  Builders cursed many neighborhoods by landscaping with an abundance of Bradford pear trees.  Besides smelling bad (some say like stinking fish although I haven’t detected it in the one Bradford pear I do have) flowering pears now appear on some invasive plant watch lists, and their wood is weak.   The Bradford pear’s life expectancy before breakage is only 25 years.  Seems mine is ready to go.

tree chopped

Avoid cultivated forms of this invasive species (aka Pyrus calleryana or Callery pear tree) and commonly available ornamental pear cultivars which include:  Bradford, New Bradford®, Cleveland select, autumn blaze, Aristocrat®, capitol, Chanticleer®, and dozens more. 

Ashmore says the problem with Bradford pear trees is that they aren’t sterile.  “No two Bradford pears will ever reproduce among themselves, but they do cross pollinate with every other pear tree out there, including the Cleveland select pear trees.  The introduction of other pear varieties has compounded the problem to the point where it is almost too late to rectify.  Because of the cross pollination problem, pear trees have now proliferated exponentially across our environment. And, to make matters worse, the evil offspring has reverted to the ancient Chinese Callery pears which form impenetrable thorny thickets that choke out the life of pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, hickories, etc.”  So, for Arbor Day I’m considering chopping down my one Bradford pear.

If your Bradford pear is splitting, maybe you want to cut it down too or if you already have a lot of these pear trees Ashmore suggests applying the Principle of Regeneration. “Plant substitutes in the gaps between your pears, and when the substitutes gain a few years of maturity, cut down the pears at that point and have a great celebratory bonfire.  Pears make great firewood.”

So, if you’re ready to regenerate and “plant” in recognition of National Arbor Day, check out some fun options on the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) website.   A mere $10 can get you 10 seedlings to plant in your hardiness zone, or 10 seedlings planted in your honor in a needy national forest.  This small donation helps millions by preserving clean air, drinking water and the habitat — a small gift with big results (and probably less than you spend on a month of cell service or latte’s).

The first American Arbor Day was on April 10, 1872 when an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.  Global Forest Watch states 73.4 million acres of tree cover were lost in the world’s forests by 2016 due to poor forest management, climate change-driven drought and fires.  This was a 51% increase over 2015!  In 2018, the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) will provide 5 million trees to help replenish those wiped out by fires and storms in California, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.




Nature Teacher: Apologies

Tree boughs lie pummeled to the ground,

shrubs remain paralyzed with ice

like lingering stinging words

from tormenting razor-sharp winds

and a staccato of angry snow piercing the air.

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Apologetic vivid blue skies and dazzling sunshine

appear the next day

as the bouquet offered after an argument

yet tangled branches of bewilderment remain.

Time sometimes softens deep wounds.

Some rebound.

Some do not.



The Beauty of Transformation

Dazzling green and metallic blue dragonflies transformed my summer to autumn.  Taking in the colorful, changing fall landscape yesterday amid September temps, I was mesmerized when a silvery gold dragonfly as sparkly as Christmas ribbons landed on my garden chair.  We both sat perfectly still for the next few minutes, its lipstick red mirrored dots on gossamer wings captivating me.

018 My dragonfly

Surely, clothing and fabric designers must get their ideas from nature I thought.  And then my view cast to the maple tree reflected in the pond, and the pathway illuminated from a myriad of golds, greens, browns, oranges and reds that painted the cherry, pear, oak, magnolia and unidentified trees.


 I felt awestruck that nature could be so endlessly beautiful, even while dying.

But, then I decided to look at it another way.  Just as the dragonfly transforms so does the tree.  It may shed leaves until it stands stark and bare but there is a regenerative undercurrent; it is not approaching death, it is transforming, preparing for another season, for another time, for the vitality of Spring.

My view of the seasons reflecting life — birth (spring), prime of life (summer), mid-life (autumn) and end of life (winter) — has also transformed.  No longer do I see only one life cycle.  Nature is teaching me more about life and what I use to call death.  More and more, I am convinced the end is not the end per se.  Life, for us, for trees, for seeds has many cycles.  I’d much prefer to think I’ll continue to grow and evolve than to die back and out.  The roses return.  Perennials too.  Trees grow new leaves and bloom in the spring.  Again and again and again.

She’s So Fine

Driving home this evening with the moon roof open and windows down, I was still savoring a glorious day with an old friend.  Kicking off the afternoon in her favorite gardening center and seeing new varieties of trees and plants made my spirits soar.

I learned that the tree I noticed on my walks this week is a Limelight Hydrangeaabsolutely beautiful!  In the next row I discovered a Firelight Hydrangea sporting  white to pomegranate colored flowers all on the same shrub — delightful!  A Dappled Willow caught my eye then the frost white needles on the Korean Fir...and flowing heart-shaped leaves on the Alley Cat and Ruby Falls Redbuds — heavenly!  Kalmia Latifolia Minuet (Mountain Laurel) surprised me while the Tricolor Beech tree was deceptively interesting.  Manhattan Euonymus and Pulminara Moonshine’s brillance drew me in and I’m already envisioning them gracing my entryway.

Thankfully, the humidity that stole Summer thus far was absent today.  I drove home in laid back contentment, drinking in the beauty of the mountains and luxuriating in the 72 degree breeze kissing my skin while gently tousling my hair.

July 28 lake louise sunset mom and me 008

But, rounding the corner to a glowing sunset on the lake overwhelmed me with gratitude for the ability to see Nature’s exquisiteness.



The View Beyond

Plum tree branches

heavily laden with raindrops

bend toward the ground

temporarily obstructing my view

of the garden beyond.

plum tree 2 008 plum tree drops water

Like the challenges we face

sometimes a relentless tsunami

We do not fully understand

or see the gifts

until widening our perspective.


Beyond the plum tree 016B

Bend, like the plum tree.

Go with the flow.

Accept.  Spring back.  Do not break.


Rain pummels and hydrates.

The sun shines and scalds.

Endings are beginnings.

It is the perfectly natural rhythm

of imperfect life.