Why Bradford pears have pushed several states to bans

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I get the gardening newsletter that Neil Sperry produces in Texas. Recently he noted that three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina) have enacted bans on the production and sale of Bradford pears. Other states will follow suit, he predicts. When will Georgia act? Robert Twilling, email

A: First, let’s talk about why Bradford pears got the boot in those states. Though they have pretty white flowers, glossy leaves, attractive fall color and fast growth, this last characteristic has become their downfall. When they are young, branches grow close together on top of the trunk. They will inevitably break when they are large. They fall on houses and cars frequently, causing lots of damage. It was once thought that Bradford pear was sterile, but it quickly became apparent that different ornamental pear varieties will quite happily interbreed and produce thousands of small seedy fruit. When the seeds sprout, they become a large, deeply rooted shrub covered with very sharp thorns. If you dig one up, root sprouts will make your life miserable for years. Acres of farmland have been lost to this bad actor. Landscapers and many folks involved in the plant industry have known about Bradford pear’s failings for years. Leaders were able to show legislators that Bradford pear was an invasive thug whose detriments far outweigh their ornamental value. The tree was outlawed because people in the ornamental horticulture industry decided to take action. Georgia will act when legislators are educated about the dangers of Bradford pear.

Q: I have a Japonica camellia that normally blooms in January. Last December, it was loaded with buds, then the cold snap hit. It’s still full of buds but none have opened. Are they ever going to bloom? Nancy Kornegay, Marietta

A: I doubt it. Temperatures were plenty cold enough to freeze flower buds completely. Unless your camellia was somehow sheltered by a building, the buds are all dead. It’s easy to determine their status: split one in half and examine the center. Live buds will be thoroughly green; dead ones will have dark brown streaks.

Q: Should my Muhly grass be trimmed each year in late winter to maintain proper growth? Douglas Charlesworth, Spalding County

A: Yes. Like fountain grass, maiden grass and pampas grass, it’s imperative that ornamental grasses get a yearly trim before new growth starts in early spring. I like to get mine done by late February. The height of the pruning depends on the size of the plant. Examine the brown stems to see where they stop and make your cut just above that point.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.