Bradford pear gets the hook

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You can get your questions answered at the Gardener's Studio, shown here during a talk on green roofs. Or you can head over to the Hort Info Booth run by PHS in the front of B Hall. You just might run into one of my favorite answer ladies - Sheila Chlebda. Sheila's been a PHS volunteer for 10 years. She's also president of the Woman's National Farm and Garden Association's Ambler chapter and the Perkasie Garden Club. She's got cred, in other words, to be among the volunteers answering horticultural questions - some only tangentially related - at the flower show.

(One of the major tangential ones involves the show's new layout. It's got some folks really flummoxed.  News flash: PHS President Drew Becher wants to change the layout every single year! So even if you figure it out in 2012, it won't be that way in 2013. Best to just go with the flow. This is how it's gonna be.)

On the hort side of things, Sheila's getting quite a few questions about fruit trees, which is great. Means people are experimenting. A frequent topic is the Bradford pear tree, an extremely popular choice for street trees in the '80s that turned out to be a bad idea. Bradford pears are weak-wooded trees - the branches break easily. Plus the trees don't smell so good and they pop up in unwanted places. You'd think someone would've known this before the tree got planted all over the place.

When people ask what to do about their damaged tree, Sheila recommends - if it's really in bad shape - they cut it down and replace it with a native ornamental. "Redbud's a much better choice," she says. Two come to mind immediately: the weeping form and the purple-leaved 'Forest Pansy.'

Although redbud doesn't have a fragrance, it has heart-shaped leaves, the seeds form pods and don't get disbursed by birds to the degree that Bradford pear's do. The tree has nice fall color and cuts a distinguished figure in winter. All this in a native. "It makes a very nice habitat," Sheila says.

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