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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bradford Pear, Not the Best Tree for the Yard

Bradford Pear is a short-lived tree that has become an invasive plant in some communities.

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

Bradford Pear, Not a Good Choice for the Landscape

The Bradford Pear came about in the 1950s when someone at the Ag. Research Service in Glenn Dale, MD found an especially promising tree grown from seed collected in China. It wasn’t until the 1980s when the Bradford began to be available in nurseries and became the fast-growing fad tree to have in your yard.
Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven

Back in the early 1900s, the fad tree all the magazines were advertising was the Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven. “Fast-growing, excellent tree for homes,” the ads claimed. There was no mention of the fact that Tree of Heaven is either male or female and if you happened to have a female, the flowers stank to high heaven (which is supposedly where the name came from). We had one on the block where I grew up as a kid, and you could smell the sickly-sweet, cloying flowers all over town. (Read more about the problems this tree is causing across the middle U.S. here).

In the 1950s and ‘60s, it was the Ginkgo biloba tree, with its, “Neat little leaves that look like Chinese fans.” The attraction was the leaves were easy to rake with little mess to clean up and the tree could reach heights of 100 feet or more. Additionally it is a long-lived hard wood tree with specimens reportedly over 2,000 years old and still living, in China. People ordered them from nurseries and magazine ads by the millions, only to learn in a few years that they, too, are either male or female, and the blossoms of the female trees contained butanoic acid and smelled like rancid butter, or worse, when in flower. (You can’t tell the sex of a tree until it’s old enough to bloom, and not all trees are separate sexes, some trees have both male and female flowers on the same tree). Add in the fact the Ginkgo biloba can take 40-60 years to reach its full height, and the tree soon fell out of favor.

The next tree fad to come along was the Hybrid Elm, “An amazingly fast growing, beautiful tree for city boulevards and front lawns” claimed the ads. Unfortunately the Siberian Elm was often substituted, and that’s a very poor tree, Hybrid Elm is slightly better, but still is not the best choice in our region. Lots of us bought them, only to learn later that one good Ozarks ice storm left the trees so completely denuded of limbs that all there was left was a trunk.

But it’s the selling of the Bradford Pear that outshines all previous tree selling fads. The ads in the ‘90s claimed the tree was sterile, producing “little if any fruit” and “no messy pears on the ground in the fall.” They were promoted as the perfect tree for city streets, where the tree stayed in its, “pyramidal shape with glossy green leaves and attractive white flowers in the spring.”
City streets lined with monotonous Bradford Pear trees.

Cities bought Bradford pears in mass quantities, as did housing developers, homeowners and industrial parks. This seemed the perfect, fast-growing, no maintenance tree. 

Bradford pears were planted in such great numbers they’ve begun to cross and hybridize and unlike the claims of being sterile and never bearing fruit with seed, have shown to reseed themselves and are now considered an invasive species in some areas. Groves of the pests have grown up in ditches and alleyways. Masses of wild Bradford Pear have become a nuisance in some areas where they’re crowding out native species.

The primary flaw in Bradford Pears comes from a combination of fast growth and week wood, coupled with poor branch structure. They generally start breaking apart after only 20 years. The crotch, or where the branch and trunk meet, becomes weak and breaks apart in storms. With their short life span of 20 years or less, weak wood and the boring sameness of white flowers, Bradford Pears have fallen out of favor and we’re ready for the next “perfect” tree to come along.

To see what’s happening in my garden this week: Happy gardening!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Farmers Markets in the Ozarks

Ozarks Gardening, April 14, 2011
Jim Long

Farmer’s Markets

The popularity of shopping locally for local produce has increased in popularity in recent years. This year, with big increases in  prices of food at the grocery store, will only increase the demand for locally grown vegetables and fruit. Not only do you get the freshest produce at a farmer’s market (picked just hours before you purchase it) but you support the local economy, as well. Isn’t it better to see your grocery money go to the farmer down the road, than to support large corporations in Peru, China or Central America?

Look at for a complete listing in MO (although the website appears to need corrections and updates). The AR Dept. of Ag. has a website, “” but it’s also not up to date and somewhat hard to use. Here are some farmers markets around the area, with contact information (from those 2 websites) in case you want to sell your produce, or simply want to shop for good food. Most markets require a weekly or seasonal fee to sell, and you need to apply for booth space if you are a grower.
Homemade Goats Milk Soap

Springfield, MO Farmer’s Market is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. You’ll find it on the corner of Glenstone and Battlefield, open Tues., Thurs. and Sat. (417) 887-4156. There’s also a market on Commercial St. in Springfield, open Sun., Wed. and Sat. 417-887-4156.

Ava, MO has a remarkably large market on the square on Saturdays and it’s a busy place for shoppers. Contact: Mary Bell (417) 796-2449.

Berryville, AR, Tues. 3-6 p.m. and Sat. mornings. Contact Linda Jones, Eureka Springs, AR market is Tues. and Thurs. mornings; contact Katie Ambach; and
Fresh picked herbs and greens at good prices.

Hermann, MO Farmers Market is open Wed. & Sat. mornings in the First Bank Parking lot; contact  Bob Kirchhofer, 573-486-2121. Kennett, MO’s Food Fair Market is open on Sat. until noon; contact Sylvas Pendleton (573) 888-9644.
This lady makes the BEST pepper jelly, for the Farmers Market in Fayetteville, AR. I wish I'd bought more than one jar.

Kimberling City’s market is on Friday mornings and the contact there is Joann Conner, 417-779-5725. The Lebanon Farmers Market of Laclede County (MO) is open May 20 thru Oct. 13 every Sat. morning, held at the Christian Life Fellowship Church. Contact person there is Judy Lambeth (573)765-3874.
Fun with Food is a project organized by the Iowa Extension Service and area youth.

Willow Springs, MO market opens May 20 on 812 E. Main; contact Elizabeth Boyle, 417-469-2454.
This enterprising young entrepreneur was making water yo-yos, demonstrating and selling them at the market.

An innovative farmers new market opens May 14 in Reeds Spring, MO and is open from 4 to 8 p.m. every Saturday. Evening farmers markets are very popular in many states, making it easy for families to shop. This market is held on the side of the main street through town with open air booth space for fresh produce and plant vendors, as well as space for musicians to play music, with old-time movies some evenings. For vendor information contact Flavie Mirat at Reeds Spring Pizza Co., 417-272-3507.

If you want the freshest produce, locally grown, you can’t beat shopping at your local farmers market. For more information, do a Google search for your town.  You can what’s happening in my garden this week on my garden blog: Happy gardening!