Fallen Beauty….

flower garden

Isn’t it interesting how the best laid plans go awry?  I had great plans for the beginning of this week.  I was getting ready to build my flower garden.  I have had visions of a garden filled with both annual and perennial flowers suitable for cutting for bouquets.  

My garden however, had other plans……

Yesterday evening, I noticed that one of my ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde trees was leaning against the fence that blocks off the side yard.  I call this area a ‘yard’ and not a ‘garden’ because it is where our dog run is located.  My husband and I rushed out to see what had happened and our tree had fallen part way over.  The night before, had brought a monsoon storm to our neighborhood and the high winds brought the tree down.  It was only held up by the fence.

I was honestly surprised that this tree had fallen.  I loved this tree…..it’s beautiful yellow flowers blooming throughout the spring, it’s bright green trunk and branches and the welcome shade it brought to my desert garden.

flower garden

Flower Garden

You can see the tree in the background.  I normally do not take pictures of our side yard because besides the two Palo Verde trees, there is not much to see besides the dogs….

 This is Seiko (pronounced ‘Psycho’) and he is telling me that he is hungry. We did not name him…..he came with the name 😉 The chicken wire along the bottom of the fence is to keep our little dog, Tobey,  from coming in to play with Seiko.

I posted a picture of this tree earlier this year as the sun was setting.  I loved how the sun set off the beauty of the yellow blossoms.

flower garden

Oftentimes, when a tree has fallen part way and the roots are still in the ground, I am often called to a client’s home to ascertain if their tree can be saved by pulling upright and re-staking it.  This can be a tricky to determine sometimes.  If the roots are girdled (growing around in circles) then I usually do recommend removing the tree because the roots aren’t growing outwards which help to anchor the tree.

If the tree went over because of not being pruned correctly or watered incorrectly, then it might be saved if these things are done properly.  I do remind people to keep in mind if they do stake their tree back up, that there is an excellent chance that it will fall again, which can be a hazard.  But, if they are very attached to their tree and want to give it another chance, then by all means I tell them to go for it.

Sadly, it turns out that our tree had girdled roots and had to come out.  It is difficult to diagnose girdled roots ahead of time because it usually occurs at the nursery.  Either by being planted incorrectly, or by being in it’s container for too long.  When I would purchase trees for the landscapes I managed, the nurseries would often contact me to let me know they were having a great sale on their container trees.  The usual reason was that their trees had been in the containers for quite a while and instead of transplanting them to larger containers, they put them on sale.  As a result, I made it a rule to never buy a tree on sale – I did not want to take a chance that they were in their container/box too long and the roots were beginning to grow around the root ball.

My initial plan for this morning had been to go to our local big box store and purchase the supplies for my new flower garden.  But, instead I spent my morning cutting down our tree with my husband and daughter, Rachele.  Why didn’t we hire someone to remove it for us you may ask?  Well, it is hard for me to spend around $400 to remove a tree when I was used to removing fallen trees with my crew years ago.  I just can’t see paying someone to do something that I had been trained to do myself.  But I think the more important motivation is that $400 is a lot of money to spend when we can do it ourselves.


You know what happens when you start pruning one tree in your garden?  You find more trees that need a little pruning here and there.  And so I also did some pruning on my remaining Palo Verde trees.  *I really like electric chainsaws….they are much lighter and quieter then the gas powered models.

I really enjoy pruning both trees and shrubs.  What I don’t like is having to clean up afterward.  My kids and I usually have a great system where I do the pruning and they help clean up the branches.  But today, three of my kids were in school, which left me and my husband to do the cleaning up 😉


It is usually at this point that I start questioning the wisdom of doing it ourselves instead of hiring someone else to do it instead 😉

As I walked through the cut branches, I noticed some of the few remaining yellow flowers beginning to wilt….

flower garden

Flower Garden

It made me rather sad…..

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
22 replies
  1. Diana
    Diana says:

    sorry to hear about your tree. that storm was FIERCE wasn't it?! sort of faked us out then came down like you wouldn't believe.

  2. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    Noelle, you are lucky it was a pretty nice day today with temps under 100°
    At least you could work and not sweat to death! I wondered if you will replace it? I think it is better to buy a small tree vs a big one. Less chance of being girdled and they are cheaper too.

  3. rohrerbot
    rohrerbot says:

    That is so sad. That happened on the other side of our fence…a great tree was shading our parking lot and during the storm the palo verde met her match….very very tragic. So sorry about your tree.

  4. Bangchik
    Bangchik says:

    Pruning is like going for a hair cut. It freshens up the look and feel, then there will another cut and another… The other day I cut down a fruiting banana plant. Some potted plants which have been enjoying the shade, looked down for days.. Now they are up and happy again. ~bangchik

  5. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    It's sad when a tree that you really like has to come down. That looked like such a pretty tree. One of our Japanese maples is dying, and I'm sure will need to come down soon. I can't believe what it costs to have trees removed, so expensive.

  6. Shady Gardener
    Shady Gardener says:

    It's definitely okay to be sad about the loss of your tree. I understand, and I think many, many people do. The good thing? You can plant another. 🙂

    As a parent, wouldn't you like to help your children celebrate grandparents? Check my post on Sept. 1.

  7. Ami
    Ami says:

    I would be sad too to lose such a beautiful tree! Fortunately you still have more of this type trees in your garden. Maybe you can use that spot to plant some new plants? (trying to look to the brighter side here… )

  8. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    I'm so sorry about your tree :(. If you love pruning, you should come to my yard, I don't do nearly enough. Speaking of which, can you check out my current post? It's of a friend yard with shrubs (& roses) gone awry. Nice to meet other canine members of your family, I thought you only had the sweet Sodapop. 🙂 I do buy shrubs & trees on sale, but make sure to take good care of freeing up the roots.

  9. Edith Hope
    Edith Hope says:

    Dear Noelle, It is very sad indeed to lose a tree, and especially one which, to all intents and purposes, appears to be healthy one day and has keeled over the next. What is more, to clear it involves a great deal of work and then, finally, one is left with a gaping hole and, however slight, the overall shape of the garden has been altered. But, to be positive, it does allow for something new!!

  10. Darla
    Darla says:

    Sorry about your tree. I do appreciate the information on trees 'on sale'. I don't know that much about purchasing trees so thanks!

  11. catmint
    catmint says:

    Hi Noelle, it is sad to lose such a cared-for tree – but it is the way of natural growing things and now you have a space for dreaming and then planting …
    thanks for the tips re pruning – I do it myself too unless the tree is very very tall.
    cheers, catmint

  12. Jan (Thanks For Today)
    Jan (Thanks For Today) says:

    I think I would feel sad, too, Noelle. It wasn't just 'any old tree'…it was a flowering tree with green trunk, bark and branches. I've never seen one like that. How beautiful it looks in your photos. No matter what tree it is, if it is special to you, it will be a great loss to you if it is suddenly gone. I'm sorry for your loss:-) You are one talented, amazing lady! Out there with your chainsaw–you go girl:-)

  13. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    It is so very sad to lose a beautiful and beloved tree. We had to cut down a wonderful poinciana tree a couple years ago because we discovered the branches were extremely brittle and didn't want the hazard in our yard. And yes, we too did it ourselves…a family affair. Hello! I'd rather have the money.

  14. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    That explains perfectly what happened to our Paul Scarlet hawthorn tree Noelle. It had been bought in a sale and it never did well compared to my neighbours who's tree is thriving while ours got dug out.

    It must be so strange looking out over that area now and seeing a big space where that beautiful tree once grew. Would you be able to plant anything in that area to replace it with Noelle?

  15. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    How sad. It was a beautiful tree. But the removal of a tree always opens up other possibilities…I, too, love pruning; it's definitely my favorite chore. But I confess I really miss my three man clean-up crew, the members of which having grown up and moved away. Oh, well, more good exercise for me!

    I appreciate your mentioning the hazard of girdling tree roots in overgrown pots. It is something i should be more aware of!

  16. Pam's English Garden
    Pam's English Garden says:

    Dear Noelle, I always feel sad at losing a plant, but especially a tree! I am sorry I haven't visited lately, but I was in England. I'm going to take a little time now to read the posts I missed. I hope you are all well. Pam

  17. Town Mouse
    Town Mouse says:

    Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Palo Verde trees are my favorites! But congratulations on doing all that work yourself. Now you deserve some flowers…

  18. Christine B.
    Christine B. says:

    I'm glad to see that I am not the only one to be seduced by the siren song of a chainsaw. One quick job quickly becomes a yard-wide buzzfest. If I'm lucky, I stop before all the shrubery resembles a deer grazed garden. I even do the over trimming thing with hand pruners…it's a good thing I don't cut hair for a living. All my clients would be scalped.

    Christine in Alaska

  19. Kate
    Kate says:

    Sorry to hear about your tree though quite impressed to see you wielding a chainsaw! You go girl! I rely on a hand held saw but I'm still planning to go hog wild with tree trimming in another month or so.

  20. Teresa O
    Teresa O says:

    So sorry to hear about the demise of your golden tree. The photo of the sunflower with the trees in the background is simply stunning…truly a golden moment.

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