To my mind one of the loveliest trees for a garden is the ornamental pear Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’. It has an upright, columnar habit, gradually becoming more oval with age, so does not take up too much space. It is one of the first trees into leaf – which are beautifully glossy – and around the same time it produces pretty white typical pear flowers. It may sometimes produce small, edible fruit which are best left for the birds. Best of all, it holds its leaves well into the autumn, being one of the last trees to colour – a rich crimson or purple, depending on soil and sun - and to drop (some years holding onto its leaves until Christmas). It makes a slender feature tree and would also be perfect planted as an avenue. This cultivar received the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 2002.
‘Chanticleer’ was developed and introduced in America in the 1950s by Edward Scanlon of Olmstead Falls, Ohio, who devoted his career to the study and propagation of trees suitable for urban situations. Between 1946 and 1955 he was the Commissioner of Shade Trees in Cleveland (who knew there was such a thing?). When he was first appointed, he was asked for his opinion on the current plantings and replied: ‘Well, Mr Mayor, there’s only one thing that we know, and that is the trees that shouldn’t be planted, and all of them are on the streets of Cleveland’.
Scanlon developed a range of trees, spending many years growing and assessing them, which in his opinion were suitable as street trees (tolerant of wind and pollution, good growth habit, and of course, beautiful) which he later marketed as Tailored©Trees, in collaboration with a nursery in Oudenbosch, Netherlands. They still sell his trees, under a very cute little logo of what looks like an elf shearing a topiary tree on an operating table with the words: ‘Tailored Trees to Fit the Space’.
He was also a very energetic man, creating and publishing until his death a trees magazine called the American Journal of Arboriculture, and championing the formation of the International Plant Propagators Society, which is still very active. He introduced many other distinctive city trees, but ‘Chanticleer’ remains the most popular, and, in my opinion, deservedly so.