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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.

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.
 
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….
 
It made me rather sad…..

Yesterday evening, I started to see the signs….


Gusty winds, thunder clouds, the smell of rain in the air and raindrops starting to fall.  A monsoon storm was on it’s way.


Clouds gathering over my house and Eucalyptus tree.

When I first moved to the desert southwest from California, I was quite surprised that it rained in the desert frequently in the summer months.  Where I came from, summer rain was quite rare.

Another surprise awaited me when I experienced my first monsoon storm….flying dust followed by high winds, thunderclouds, lightning and torrential downpours – these were definitely things that I had not experienced in California.

*The Sonoran Desert has two rainy seasons, one in the winter and one in the summer.  Because of this our desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  

Although I love monsoon storms, I would dread going to work the day afterward because I knew that there could be a lot of tree damage to deal with due to the high winds…especially on the golf courses.  I would have to personally check all of the trees…some were completely blown over with roots sticking out and my crew would quickly cut them up.  Other trees would half in and half out of the soil and I would have to decide if we could save them or not.  

One summer brought a severe micro-burst over the area where I worked and the damage to the trees on the golf courses were thankfully, minimal, except for a large Saguaro cactus that was lost and just a handful of trees.


However, it was the damaged trees that I saw as a result of the storm in the residential areas that was shocking. 

There were the trees that had been completely blown over…

 Fallen Mesquite

 Fallen Palo Verde

 Fallen Ironwood

Some trees were completely snapped off at their base….

  Palo Verde

Some trees that completely lost their head…literally.

  This Palo Verde snapped off halfway up the trunk.

Some trees looked like they were swallowing up homes….
 

Although we did suffer some losses on the golf courses and landscape areas, the homeowners were hit the hardest in regards to damaged trees – mostly because their trees were either somewhat top-heavy or had not been pruned recently, or pruned correctly.  

You may be asking, what can I do to avoid having this happen to my tree?  Well, there are some steps that you can take to help prevent wind damage, BUT even if you maintain your trees correctly, wind damage may be unavoidable.  Following these tips will increase your chances of escaping severe wind damage, but nothing can totally prevent it due to circumstances beyond your control.

First, you may notice that all the trees in the pictures had a single (standard) trunk.  Imagine holding a lollipop at the base of the stick.  The top of the lollipop is quite heavy, isn’t it?  Well, this is the same for many single trunk trees.  Many desert trees such as Mesquite, Palo Verde, Sweet Acacia and Ironwood are available in both standard (single) or multi-trunk forms.  In my opinion, multi-trunk trees are more attractive in addition to the fact that they are less likely to suffer damage from wind because the weight of the branches is more evenly distributed among multiple tree trunks.

Second, proper pruning will help your trees to weather the storms.  I would always schedule our annual tree pruning to be done before the monsoon season would begin.  The International Society of Arboriculture has excellent information on how to prune mature trees which can be found here.  Trees add lots of value to your house – not just aesthetically, but in dollars as well.  So, it is worth the investment to hire a Certified Arborist to advise you on the correct way to prune your trees.  Most also offer pruning services for your trees as well.   *You can find a Certified Arborist in your area by following this link.

Last, make sure that your trees are watered correctly.  Trees need to be watered deeply, so that their roots will grow down into the soil.  Repeated shallow watering results in tree roots that are close to the surface and are not able to anchor a tree against high winds. 


As I write this, I see storm clouds gathering to the east.  I am hoping for a nice rainstorm tonight, without the high winds 😉