Last month I found myself in the odd position of defending Bradford pear trees.

Last month I found myself in the odd position of defending Bradford pear trees.

You remember March: they were in full bloom, white blossoms everywhere. White on the trees and white spotting the streets. Certainly a more spectacular display than the Red Buds just now flowering.  

It occurred to me that Shawnee might more appropriately be named the Bradford Pear City. It was lovely. Spring had arrived.  We thought.

But you can depend on Facebook friends to cast shadows of doubt on the brightest days and on your most innocent pleasures.  (I personally think being brought up with the changeable weather in this state somehow shapes us to be contrary.)

And there it was.  A good friend, a friend I ordinarily have no quarrel with, posted a link to a blog that viciously attacked those pretty little trees.  In fact, a close reading of the article revealed a long term animus.  

To put it plainly, the writer is waging a multi-blog campaign, urging his followers to cut down their Bradford pear trees!

Now it’s certainly easy to enumerate the defects of the Bradford: it blooms very briefly and then scatters it petals to the wind; that same wind will fracture and break off certain of its branches. And while one is picking up the wind’s leavings, one notices a multitude of sprouts from the Bradford’s root system. One has to mow them almost as regularly as the grass.

But at least its root system tends to stay underground where it’s supposed to—as opposed, say, to the Sweet Gums.  

Some would add that Bradfords don’t produce any pears.

That’s a negative? The boy doesn’t think so! Assuming the squirrels didn’t get them first, would they even taste good? Would the rotting ones smell good when the lawnmower ran over them? I shudder to think of the effects of fermenting fruit on the big birds and squirrels that frequent my backyard. I am happy to have neutered trees.

These defects, taken singly or as a whole, hardly approach the charges the blog specialist leveled at that most innocent of trees.  

They are “dangerous.”  They are “evil.” They spread. They need to be exterminated.

An accompanying photo showed a row of new houses: they all look the same and they all have a single Bradford pear sapling planted in the middle of their small front yards.  Bradford pear trees are the choice of pod people. Let’s all sing a verse of “Little Boxes” (“made of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same”).  

I’ll agree that the photo was rather grim, but I think the real target should have been those contractors who clear the ground of native trees before they build.

The blog writer got so caught up in his campaign, he ended up recommending all white blossoming trees be cut down! Dogwoods? Cherry trees? Apple trees?

At which point, I quit reading, probably missing a special offer of better trees at a reasonable price, shipping free.

I’m happy to say that most responses to the Facebook post were rational. No one suggested assaulting those Cherry trees in Washington, D.C. that happened to bloom in white.

But one enthusiastic follower added, “The Bradford Pear Trees stink too!”

Immediately, I went out the back door and crushed both a blossom and some leaves in my hand. Gave them a sniff. Not much of a smell at all.  Smelled like a tree.  Didn’t even make me sneeze. This is not Fake News.

But, after checking a usually reliable source (ok, Wikipedia), I find that some varieties of the Bradford do give off a bad smell in the spring. OK. A concession to civil discourse.

Anyway, I am not going to cut down my Bradford trees. Sure, the branches have arced out enough to touch the ground. I need a machete to get through them when I mow.  And I do have to pick up sticks before I mow.  But still, I could do some trimming ahead of time, if I just remembered before I started to mow.  So that’s on me.

If I were going to criticize tree breeds, I’d start with Sycamores and Sweet Gums.  The Sycamore is just not hardy enough for Oklahoma, in my opinion. Come midsummer, mine will drop leaves, bark, and litter the lawn with twigs and branches. A real wuss of a tree.

I have complained before of the Sweet Gum seed pods, which will not have the courtesy of dropping when the leaves drop in the fall. But the leaf colors in the fall are just stunning.

This all reminds me of a difference of opinion between my wife and me about our first backyard. Our new house had a backyard enclosed by a chain link fence. Later, when we acquired a Sheltie, we appreciated that fence.  

But if your backyard means anything to you, you have to admit that an unadorned and plainly visible chain link fence is kind of ugly. Furthermore, if you are cheek-by-jowel with neighbors on both sides and the back, such a fence offers no privacy.

We didn’t have the wherewithal to purchase bushes to place along the fence on three sides of the yard, so I hit upon an inexpensive solution.  Growing up in the suburbs, I was always impressed by the hardiness, fast growth, and flowers of the Honeysuckle.

My wife, who grew up in the mountains of Virginia, had a very different view of Honeysuckle. It was a weed that crowded out natural flowers and ground cover. Later, when Kudzu spread to her hometown, she had a more kindly attitude toward Honeysuckle.

Anyway, I placed sprouts along the fence line, and they grew and grew. Within several years, they more than topped the fence, creating a green barrier and giving us some measure of privacy.

Of course, I had to mow them back, when tendrils reached out to smother the lawn. And the flowers attracted bees. When our son was stung a couple of times, I sensed that fingers were pointing at me.

But the Sheltie loved the Honeysuckle hedge. When we played a form of soccer with him, he would field the ball off his ribs and nose-prod the ball at full speed toward the hedge. If he got there he would score a goal.  

The Honeysuckle formed a cushion, so he and the ball could crash into the hedge at full speed. The only problem was that  he always aimed at the same place. (Shelties develop rather fixed habits.) After awhile, an unsightly hollow place appeared, and the cushioning was gone.  

Our smart soccer dog began aiming at a different place--alas, with the same result.    

When we sold the house, we left a rather chunky looking hedge behind. Hopefully it has grown back.

As I look out at the backyard of our present home, I find myself missing the uniformity of that Honeysuckle hedge. All the scrub bushes I have neglected to trim back just don’t add much, except cover for the small birds.

But then I look at my Bradford pear trees and am satisfied.  

Except when I have to mow under them.