The ongoing drought coupled with the recent heavy rains has impacted gardens, particularly those with established trees. Trees are not only struggling to cope with the dramatic shift in conditions in California, they’re falling over and posing a great risk to people and homes.

In an interview with L.A. Times, Daniel Goyette, principal arborist for the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, explains the reason for why lately we’re hearing of more trees falling.

“The ground can become like Jell-o once the soil gets to field capacity,” he says. “It can no longer hold any more water. That’s where you get movement in the soil. It’s why trees are toppling —  the soil does not have the rigidity that it usually does.”

A large tree can be a great asset to a property. Visually it can enhance and give structure to a garden. It can also be a valuable amenity, providing shade to entertain under, a place to string lights and somewhere for the kids to climb. However, if you see any of these signs, your tree could be in danger of falling:

  • Tree tilting or cracks in the trunk
  • Early leaf drop
  • Dead branches
  • Cracking in the soil around the tree trunk
  • Rising soil on the side of the tree
  • Presence of insect holes
  • Soil drainage issues

The drought has no doubt inflicted some long-term damage to trees, which are sometimes not evident until 3 years post drought. Common side effects you may be seeing in your garden are stunted growth, trees flowering excessively or sparse foliage. If you see the upper branches or trunks dying back, it’s also a sign the tree is stressed. This can result in a loss of fine feeder roots and when the rain returns the plant may struggle to cope due to the reduced root mass.

If you’re noticing an increase in pests, it’s another good sign your tree is struggling to cope. Lacebugs, spider mites, black turpentine beetles, and aphids are common pests that invade struggling plants and cause severe damage, increasing the risk of the tree falling. The lack of water has no doubt inhibited the growth of your tree and the pests add further insult due to the plant’s reduced ability to heal from wounds.

While we can all be relieved the Californian drought appears to be finally over, the impact to our gardens will be ongoing. It’s vital we keep an eye on the health of our trees to avoid one falling. If you’re unsure how your trees are coping with the change of weather conditions, it’s best to get in touch with a local arborist for advice.

Image: Crepe Myrtle tree in a garden designed by Good Manors .