There will be no partridges in the pear tree at the Mencken House this Christmas. Workmen from Forest Valley Tree & Turf LLC of Jessup, MD, arrived this morning to remove the remaining portion of the Bradford Pear which had split during the derecho of June 29, 2012.
The tree which was cut down was not original to the garden but had been planted to replace the one that was originally there. A reference from 1963 says that the original tree was a “Kieffer pear tree”. In Happy Days Mr Mencken writes that “[t]he pear tree survives to this day, and is still as lush and vigorous as it was in 1883, beside being thirty feet higher and so large around the waist that its branches bulge into the neighboring yards.” In 1982, the tree is described in a newspaper article as “a now scraggly looking pear tree.” The Mencken House was acquired by the City of Baltimore in July 1983 and was opened as a museum on June 15, 1984. Sometime between the acquisition of the house and 1990, the original pear tree was replaced. A Bradford Pear was chosen because it is self-sterile, that is, it will not bear fruit unless it is planted near other pear trees. Fallen fruit attracts rats, creatures not unfamiliar to Baltimoreans.
The Bradford pear was originally cultivated at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Introduction Station in Glenn Dale, Md. and was named in honor of Frederick C. Bradford, a former director of the station. It was introduced in 1963 and was popular until its shortcoming became apparent: it is “a structurally defective tree, inadequate in the slightest wind, likely to split in half” and “highly susceptible to breakage by winds”.
Many thanks to Phil Hildebrandt who arrived early and erected a scaffold which made the workmen’s task easier and saved the garden bed from being trampled.