Should you thin out a Bradford Pear Tree?

jess2132000(PA)January 27, 2008

We have a Bradford Pear that we planted 13 years ago. Never had it cut back or thinned out. Its getting pretty big now and it is by our driveway so our last ice storm its branches where hanging so low I thought we better cut it back or have it thinned out but really don't want a ugly looking tree in the front yard. i am afraid if they thin it out it will look ugly. Some say don't cut them others say thin them out. I still want the tree so cutting it down is not a option right now.. I have one other one in the front yard that is 8 years old so what would be best for the tree and what would the tree look like if thinned out the correct way?? should they be cut before they flower or after..

Thanks for any info of the care of these two trees!!

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Jess, any tree can be thinned out. Fruit-type trees in particular look better, to me, with a bit of this done occassionally. Strive to remove those branches/branchlets which are interfering or crossing with a better branch. And anything that's in the way can be removed or shortened up as well. Keep in mind, the tree's reaction to having some of its branches removed will be to make more branches, AKA suckers. Some of these will have to be removed later, say mid-growing season. Otherwise, the main pruning can be done right now, during dormancy, with good results. Don't worry about the before flowering/after flowering conundrum. A dormant season pruning is best, all things considered.

If done in moderation, with good pruning cuts, this treatment should enhance the beauty of the trees, not detract from it.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:18PM
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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

Thats a loaded question isn't it? Just kidding!
Yeah, it should be pruned before the weight of ice or snow or wind (moderate or brisk, brings it down).
I don't think the Bradford Pear is very highly revered around here, as it doesn't hold up well with time.
I am surprised yours hasn't fallen apart yet.
Its the narrow crotch angles of the major branches that first go out from the trunk. The Bradford Pear holds its leaves longer than normal and the tree can't take that kind of weight in bad weather or not even in bad weather, Father Time just seems to do them in.
I'd prune (not butcher) it soon to relieve weight.
I have seen so many Bradford Pears that have literally ruined a landscape after breakage that it is crazy.
The pic below is one of the better ones of them I've seen after breakage. That resident had the home association dues to wait out a recovery and today the tree don't look too bad, its just void on one side now.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:41PM
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Well had Happy Tree Service Stephen Redding come out a he told me he would thin the Bradford Pears and multiple crotch reduction. He said he would not cut it back at all. I am getting one more option before I get the tree done. He said it would still make the tree look nice to look at. I hope so as i have seen some cut back pretty hard..I showed him a picture of one cut back hard and he said he would not do that to this tree. Thinning should be all it needs. I hope this is the best way to work with these trees. I will get one more opinion from another service first then decide..

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 9:55AM
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When you say "cut back hard" I assume you mean that top growth was removed? We have people do that occasionally here and it is maximum ugly!! While "topping" may create lush summer growth, you have a very ugly tree to look at all late fall, winter and early spring!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 10:26AM
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the photo above makes the tree appear as if it has been trained pruned, and thus avoided such close crotches and tightness in the tree's branches. Its lower trunks crotch do not look anything like the local unpruned bradford pears, which have or have not avoided branch failure.

Maybe the limb failure seen in the photo has even served to improve the remaining branches stability.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 11:28AM
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Based on your photobucket link, it's obvious to me you had an intense storm, or even some kind of tornado. No tree is immune to damage in those extremes.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 11:52AM
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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

Oh God, I started reading that and I thought you were going to call me prejudiced or worse. None of those were my trees.
I know not many trees could withstand a tornado or a severe storm that directly involved a tree. But no, they weren't hit by severe storms. Minor thunder storms or just snow-storms maybe, maybe it was 20 mph gusts of wind but I don't recall anything that a regular tree couldn't withstand. I don't dislike the tree that much! I wouldn't intentionally post photos that no tree could take. I still have most of my marbles for goodness sakes!
If you want to see damage check out my photobucket album titled ice storms and damage, link below.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 2:12PM
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Well i don't want it to look like this one.. Was this topped?? i think I prefer the thinning and crutch reduction look whatever that is but I really don't want it cut back like this one..I don' think?? Or do I??

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 3:40PM
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That was topped. You don't want that.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 3:59PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Jess, whichever tree guy you decide on (and ideally as part of the decision process), get references, follow up on them, and, if at all possible, go yourself to look at what the trees ended up looking like. Even jobs he/she did a few years ago could be valuable - it would give you a feel for what your tree could look like in a similar time frame. The initial cost of having work done is not always the ultimate cost..., both in money and in looks. And DO make sure they have at least 1 million dollars liability insurance and Workmans Comp. - just in case some one or some thing gets hurt or damaged.

Another thing to factor in is what will be done with the cut-off branches, and how thoroughly the crew cleans up. They SHOULD take the branches away with them, whether as branches or chipped as mulch (if you can stockpile and age the wood chips, then you could keep them as a coarse mulch in about 6 months - fresh wood chips aren't a good mulch), and the job site SHOULD end up as clean as it was when they started. They should, if the tree is near the street or a structure, cover any cars or structures nearby with drop-clothes or tarps, to limit damage from wayward falling branches.

Thinning such trees as flowering pears, which have a heavy leaf-load, can be a very good thing. If badly done, it can shorten the life of the tree by as much or more as the right job can lengthen it, so you do need to pick a good and careful tree service.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 4:41PM
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Well I have used this company 4 times now and they always clean up and so far have always done a nice job but I never have asked the owner for any references as he seemed very informative about trees and saved my Jap. Maple when it had canker issues. He also took a few trees down for us and put new ones in. We even went to his house to pick out our trees as he grows them all in a natural state not what you see in a nursery where trees are lined up in a row.. He even told us we can pay whatever we want each month with no interest till the trees were paid off which they now are.. He has been in business for 25 years and so far I have not had any issues to complain about but as for the Bradford trees I have always been afraid to thin or cut them because I have seen some bad jobs else where. I like the idea of seeing some of his work else where. He already knows Im a crazy person with my trees and he had to come out to our house twice to move a red maple tree that we got from him then I changed my mind and wanted it moved to a different location in our yard..We will get one other opinion from another tree service but he has always givin good advice so far so I will keep this in mind when we decide who gets the job.Thanks for some suggestions!!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 5:15PM
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Any legitimate tree service worth their salt will never top a tree. I would just have the tree removed (by someone else or do it yourself since the tree has already been trimmed) and plant a tree with fewer problems and less invasive tendencies.

The old woman I purchased my house from had both of the trees in the yard topped prior to the house being put up for sale (a huge old maple and elm). The branches that grew from the topped tree started to break off in the slightest breeze once they got too big because of their poor attachment to the tree. The trees were also an eye-sore in the winter after being topped.

Hopefully you didn't pay much to have the trees ruined by topping.
Just my .02

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 7:38PM
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Thin it down to a couple of inches below the ground level, then put some herbicide on the stump.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 1:21AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Jess, you may have gathered that many who post here are NOT big fans of Bradford pears, nor of any of the flowering pears. Since you have yours already, thinning the canopy may well help it survive a good wind or ice storm. It may not as well, and it may just "fall apart" in the next few years, whatever you do to it now. But, the odds of that happening are greater if you do nothing, so go ahead. It sounds like your tree guy is good, so ignore my advice - I assumed you would be looking for a service as well.

Mike, if you re-read the thread carefully, you would see that Jess wants to THIN the tree, not top it.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 5:40PM
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Well Mike I got my second opinion and it was the same as the first tree guys opinion which is thin and do not top the tree. They both agreeded that our Bradford is a fairly good one as it is one single trunk and so far looks ok. There was only a $45 price difference between both tree services. One quoted $130 for both trees and the other $175. i will go with the company that I usually use as he happened to be the cheapest and so far the company has done good work on our other tree issue's. For now the tree will stay and if worse comes to worse if it ever does spilt then we will have it taken down but it still looks good to me and provides shade to sit under so why kill something that looks good and serves a purpose for now..

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 7:41PM
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