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Four Trees That Are Better Than Bradford Pears

We lost our Bradford pears to a summer storm. They were great beauties, although not very sturdy. Can you suggest a similar but hardier tree to replace them?

Bradford pears are a favorite with many gardeners because they grow fast, have a nice shape, will tolerate just about any growing conditions and produce both spring flowers and gorgeous fall foliage. Unfortunately, these trees are not very long lived because they are subject to splitting. The problem is that the branches do not form a strong union with the trunk of the tree so a strong wind or the weight of ice will cause the tree to snap. If Isabelle hadn’t gotten your tree, some other storm would have. I can think of several suitable ornamental trees that would make excellent replacements for your Bradford pear.

Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera) 20′ -25′, zones 4 – 9.
In spring it covers itself with tiny almost white flowers. As soon as the petals fall from the blossoms the tree puts on a robe of reddish-purple leaves that will persist through the summer and into the fall.

Chinese Dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis) 16′ – 18′, zones 5 – 8
Blooms 3 weeks later than a standard dogwood. Large red fruit, nice autumn foliage and exfoliating bark make this a tree for all seasons.

Redbud ‘Forest Pansy’ (Cercis canadensis) 18′ – 20′ zones 5 – 9
The advantage of ‘Forest Pansy’ is in the deep maroon color of its leaves. From the moment the tiny leaves emerge in the spring they are deep, dark red. This color can persist through out the entire growing season if the conditions are ideal. This tree has large heart-shaped leaves and color to help it stand out in the garden.

Columnar English Oaks (Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’) 50′, zones 5 – 8
While this tree will grow to a whopping 50′ or more when it matures, its width will never exceed much more than 10′. This tree’s growth habit is suited for locations where ground space is limited, but vertical space is available. They are perfect for growing along the sides of, and in between buildings, as well as next to sidewalks and parking lots.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), variable in size, zones 7 – 9
With proper pruning, tall growing crape myrtles can be trained into very attractive, multi-trunked trees. Their bark and twisted trunks give them winter interest and their foliage is actually quite spectacular in the fall. The abundant summer blooms are what make this tree remarkable but the attractive bark and fall color give crape myrtles year round interest.