Mesmerizing on so many levels, evergreen pear trees are in full flower in many parts of California and Arizona right now. You’ll recognize them by their cotton-ball canopies, dreamy cluster upon dreamy cluster of white flowers that bloom for just a few weeks in late January and early February.
Blink and you’ll miss them. (So please don’t miss them.) The bees definitely aren’t; our buzzing benefactors are going to town on the Pyrus kawakamii trees that we’ve been ogling all over our neighborhood in La Jolla and in Balboa Park, where they have straight iced out la Plaza de Panama. Native to Taiwan and China, this ornamental pear is also a treasured street tree in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. And in Long Beach, you can find these trees at the Earl B. Miller Japanese Garden.
Even in our mild climes it’s hard not to get excited about an early bloomer. The common name, evergreen pear, is a bit of a misnomer; in fact it’s semideciduous and will briefly lose its leaves in the coldest winters of its range. (Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24; USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10.) While the bronze fruit it produces is small and inedible, the P. kawakamii expresses a tolerance for a variety soil types, including heavy clay. Just beware of fireblight and fungal leaf spots.
The tree can grow up to 30 feet tall on single or multiple trunks that will hypnotize you with their soulfully furrowed bark. Leaves are elliptic to ovate, glossy and bisected by lovely pink midribs. Flowers are fragrant and let loose a wild confetti of petals in a light breeze — about as close as we get to snow around here. P. kawakamii is also an excellent tree to espalier, the possibilities of which could very well make us lose our minds.
Below you will find some more of the Pyrus experience — one moment you’re wandering under a tree and the next you’re getting lost in the clouds. —TH