Bradford pear trees topped need some Advice

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See Guy, Bracing a Bradford is absurd!!HAHAHAHAHA

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Is this some old battle coming out here, or just that emphatic over pear bracing?


New member
That's cool, just curious is all. It's a tree I hate doing (not good at). My old boss had an eye to make those things look great reduced.


Branched out member
Louisville, KY
Bradford pears are my one exception to the No Topping rule, I do what we call a "severe crown reduction" which in actuality is pretty much topping.

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We call it "starting a pollard".

Bradford pears are an interesting tree. In my scant 13 years of experience, I have gone from hating them and cursing the very ground they grew out of, and then softening when they bloom and look so pretty, and then back to hating them when the wind blew their foul stench past my olfactory sensors.

Now I like them, and I tell people to enjoy them while they last. Thin the crowns if you want, it probably won't change the fact that 1/4 inch of ice will destroy it.

If a client loves loves loves their Bradford, we will top the ever-loving crap out of it every two to three years, leaving big knuckles and actually forming a nice looking pollard (I'll have to dig up some pictures, Guy). I think that we will be caring for that tree as long as that old lady is alive to pay us to do it. It's a beautiful thing.

Bradfords are like Crape Myrtles. Indestructible.

No way Noel, It not an old battle. I am just jackin around. I dont really like them(bradfords) either. Just not a very hard long lasting tree.

I think Guy is awesome! If I didnt I wouldnt give him a hard time. Much love Guy!!

Derrick Hulsey
This is an intersting read. I've wanted to "top" Bradfords for years but have never done it on account of my "reputation". These are ridiculus trees that were bred to fail, I think I'll re-think my pruning practices with these ones.
SRT has never been the preferred method for ascending a tree like the Bradford Pear. It does have it's role, however, especially where real trees are concerned. Yes.

How about a redirection in the grove? Maybe a commitment to removing some of these behemoths and replanting, phasing in a more suitable species.

On our campus we consider Bradfords, amongst other trees to be short to intermediate term lifespan. They get removed and replaced to adapt to the landscape.

We have some Aristocrat pears that appear to have a better branching structure.
Generally I agree with at least someone and perhaps I have missed something here but topping these trees is part of the problem. Just stop it. Unfortunately I have had the "privledge" of working on these exceptions and have successfully "recreated" the tree. This tree sucks and really should be taken down and replaced. So in that respect I agree with whoever suggested that method. For those of you who stated topping the bradford is ok are really just looking for the easy way out. Uphold the same standards on all trees; its not long before exceptions are made for every difficult task.


Branched out member
Louisville, KY
For those of you who stated topping the bradford is ok are really just looking for the easy way out. Uphold the same standards on all trees; its not long before exceptions are made for every difficult task.

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On the contrary, to pollard a Bradford again and again takes a lot of skill and time, which translates into a higher cost to the client. It's not an easy way out. The easy way out would be to continue topping the tree, cutting below the previous cuts and not allowing big "knuckles" to form.

We are in the same skiff Easy P. Bradfords, and to some extent Crape Myrtles are like special need children. They require special attention early and often during development. I prefer to get agressive by removing a few leaders if the tree is 5-9 years old and hasn't been pruned or topped previously, possibly taking 40%. Then come back and work on structure. I have braced and cables many many BP's and prefer a hard pruning followed up with structural training over the cabling. Got to get the wind passing through in leaf and the ice balanced when dormant. I have seen many karate chop effect victims on cabled and braced BP's, and BP's without any hardware snapping off main stem 4 feet up for the same reason, the energy has to go somewhere. The trees can work if cared for, and the arborist understands included bark and subordinate pruning. I always tell clients to plant an oak behind them. Don Shadow in McMinnville TN has developed a single lead crimson colored BP, cool. I miss the Crape Myrtles, you can be pretty agressive there also.
Easy we know that topping and pollard are two different practices. One is acceptable the other is not. You seem to agree with me but have offered another solution, which I appreciate. It seems to me that the Europeon countries have really mastered the art of pollarding. Some trees over there that I have seen look great.


Branched out member
East US, Earth
I have seen many karate chop effect victims on cabled and braced BP's,

[/ QUOTE ]This means that either:

hardware was too low, or

not enough was reduced from ends
Or it means a combination of both and the trees have generally weak wood. I don't think there is a black and white with Bradford Pears. The generally weak wood can be seen in most places after a windstorm when you get a 7 inch diameter bole that is broken off right where branching begins- no hardware involved there. Not enough strength to sustain the flexing. Hardware does have to be installed correctly to work, I'll agree there.


Been here a while
I would like to encourage those who would recommend topping these trees as professionals to not use that particular term. Topping being "indescriminate cutting". But what most here are proposing is a hard trim with forethought.

I have not worked on these trees in quite awhile but there was a trim style we used which basically was a modification of pollarding that worked very well on these and several other species, such as the fruitless mulberry. Bradfords do not lend themselves to traditional true pollarding due to their weak structure. The pollard heads become quite heavy in time and branch girth is suppressed. All spelling disaster in the end after many years of diligent work.

The "modified pollarding" that I refer to is leaving 8 to 12" of new wood on each pruning session directing the growth and the shape of the tree in a very similar fashion to an espalier. This is really fun to do on fast growing trees. It creates a very thickly tapered limb that will no longer be susceptible to storm damage.

I know severe pruning is distasteful to some but this may be a viable possibility in some situations. We need to retain the ability within our regulations to address specialized situations professionally.

We just got a 6 inch sloppy HEAVY snow storm on monday here in NE Pennsylvania. Our pears are still in leaf here. Between that and the heavy snow...............I've got bradford pears coming out my ears.


Branched out member
I don't have time to read this thread, so I don't know what you all have been saying. (But Cuttenwolf filled me in a little one day, so I've been wanting to post my opinion.)

Topping is topping and it's wrong no matter the specie, period.

In general: You can take a bradford pear or variety of callery pear and trim it to establish a good structure when it's about 8 feet tall.

Then over the years, every 5 or so, thin it out and maintain good structure with good strong u-shaped crotches.

You will then have the longest lived healthy callery pear, that will always looks like a tree, not a hat-rack. It will need minumum maintance over the years.

Topping is a short solution, that will shorten the tree life. Once topped, the tree is basically ruined.

Topping is wrong. If your doing the same thing, but calling it something else like "hard-cut" or the incorrect term "pollarding" it's still wrong, you are just searching for a word that doesn't have such a bad name.

It doesn't matter the specie, it's wrong!

Make an exception for one specie and there's bound to be more added to the list.


We will be the first tree service in the yellow pages book in our area to state in our advertisement that, "WE WILL NOT TOP YOUR TREE, TOPPING IS WRONG".

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