Feeling like something’s missing this March? Could be you’ve noticed that the strip malls, condo developments and all of Brentwood don’t look quite right. Well, that’s because the late freeze took hold of the flowering trees there and nipped their blossoms in the bud. Of course, we’re talking about Pyrus Calleryana, commonly known as the Bradford Pear, sometimes ridiculed as the Brentwood Pear.
Say what? Ridiculed? Why on earth would anybody ridicule one of nature’s beauties, a living green thing that blesses us with spring flowers, and helps reduce air, noise and visual pollution? Well, I’m here to tell you. Let’s start with a few analogies: Bradford Pears are to trees what paintings of big-eyed puppies, kittens and clowns are to art. They are to the natural landscape what Pat Boone is to rock ’n’ roll. They are the horticultural equivalent of keeping all the window shades at the high school pulled to the same height.
These trees are just too darn cute and way too stiff. They’re in-your-face evidence of anal-retentive, control-freak thinking. In the words of local garden writer Miss Nan Dina: “Nestled next to a hackberry or sugar maple, it looks like an overdressed, corseted maiden aunt. The tree just can’t relax and refuses to fit in.” Even Southern Living magazine, which often comes down on the cute side of Martha Stewart, has stated that Bradford Pears get overplanted.
I’ve got my own reasons not to plant the things. First of all, I have it on good authority that every spring, corporate headhunters drag unwitting management types down here from Up North, show ’em all those flowery trees and big houses in Brentwood, then lure them into relocating with promises of delicious Bradford Pear pies in the fall. Relocators, listen to me: It’s a lie. There are no actual pears. This is the first of many cruel hoaxes. Fall is not Bradford Pear season. It’s the beginning of the Inbred Hillbilly Mating Festival, which runs all the way from September through February. Sweet mercy on you if some banjo-playing galoot swoops down from the hills and takes you as his love slave, because while it’s not exactly legal, nobody gets arrested for it. Kinda like having a whole bunch of wives in Utah.
But back to the trees. You think calves suffer to give us veal? It’s nothing compared to what these Bradford Pear trees have to endure. To get that unnatural shape, they’re bound with small plastic cones at birth, then injected with melted-down goo from that marshmallow orange-slice candy left over from Halloween. Finally, to inhibit their tendency to mutate back to their natural form, they’re irradiated with weapons-grade plutonium. This whole binding/injecting/irradiating process is repeated three times daily until the trees are big enough to transplant. Who does this ugly and dangerous work? Exploited indigenous peoples overseas, that’s who.
A small enough price to pay for perfectly shaped trees, you say? I respectfully disagree. One day, the fireblight will come, and all these Bradford Pear trees will start to ooze sap. One spark from a carelessly discarded cigarette, and hellish flames will erupt, leaping from tree to tree. Whennot ifthis happens, don’t get caught downwind. That sap burns hotter than an oil-well fire, and it’s stickier than napalm. Mess with Mother Nature, and this is the payback.
The only good news about Bradford Pear trees: Boy, is that wood good for grilling. If your condo complex or office park has some Bradford Pear trees, get permission to cut a bunch of ’em down. (When exposed to a little chain-saw oil, the dreaded radioactive sap turns into sugar in .0003 seconds.) Then cook up steaks, corn, marshmallows, soybean weenies or whatever. The smoke from a Bradford Pear fire is so sweet and tasty, it would make Bondo taste good.
Finish the job by grinding out the Bradford Pear stumps and planting some nice Yellowwood trees. They’re the official Bicentennial tree, so you’d be showing your state pride. Yellowwood trees have a nice natural shape, and they get wisteria-like blooms in the summer. Mix in some dogwoods and some big shade trees, and maybe some of our sprawled-out areas can shake loose from the Lego-town look and make peace with Ma Nature.
Walter Jowers can be reached at Walter.Jowers@nashville.com.