Spousal differences regarding your landscape? Always call a certified arborist

Recent summers have been drier. Hopefully recent rain will satisfy our thirsty landscapes this year.

“Thank you. You saved our marriage!””

With tongue in cheek, a homeowner recently expressed the above feelings to me regarding spousal differences about landscape questions. She stated that divorce was never really an option. But, at times, murder was considered! Fortunately, such a drastic measure proved to be unnecessary.

Thinking back over the years, I recall a number of comments from homeowners that hint that the services provided by certified arborists may have been helpful to marital relations.

For example, there have been a few calls where a wife complained that her husband attacked a favorite shrub or tree with a chainsaw or hedge trimmer. Could I come out and assess or repair the damage?

Or a husband will express concern that a spouse wants to have a coveted tree cut down. Would I check out its condition?

Landscapes can create emotional reactions that may overshadow what is best for the plants, shrubs or trees. While these issues are important, the concerns of the parties involved are often even more important.

I have found that once an assessment and recommendations have been made regarding a landscape issue, a calm discussion usually results in a win-win solution.


Perhaps the most common concern is the safety of tall conifers such as Douglas-fir or hemlock trees in our back yards or greenbelts.

We often experience severe storms that cause trees to fail and create much debris in our yards and on the streets. Unfortunately, many homeowners overreact and cut down trees that would have safely existed for many future decades. Such actions are sometimes encouraged by tree services or doorbell arborists soliciting work.

Hazard assessments by professionals that have a homeowner’s best interest at heart will provide objective recommendations. A tree may be given a clean bill of health or its condition and safety issues may dictate removal.

However, if household opinions regarding a tree issue are not on the same page, it may be time to call in a certified arborist/marriage councilor. Sometimes they can help to smooth out the decision-making negotiations.


The recent summers have been drier than usual. Hopefully, the recent rains will satisfy our thirsty landscapes for this year.

The annual shedding of interior needles on pines, western red cedars and the few redwoods in the area is occurring on schedule. These are needles that are no longer functional and are not indicators of diseases or the lack of water. Last week’s high winds cleaned out my three redwood trees. Now the cleanup process will begin.

One indication of drought in conifers, particularly cedars, is when tree tops turn brown, but the lower branches remain green. This occurs when the water column inside a tree becomes “broken” as a result of drought stress. Once broken, the branches and foliage above the breakage will die while the lower branches may survive for decades.

Various shrubs and small trees such as arborvitae have shown scattered dying throughout their canopies. Chances are these occurrences are a result of drought stress. Often these signs are irreversible so that deep watering may have little impact. Chances are many of the trees will regain their normal appearances following the new growth of next spring.

Recent forecasts are suggesting a mild La Nina resulting from warming water along the equator. This suggests the possibility of a wetter and cooler winter for the Pacific Northwest. Hopefully this will result in a healthy snowpack throughout the Cascades.

Dennis Tompkins is a Certified Arborist, Certified Hazard Tree Assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or email at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.

Dennis Tompkins, the Evergreen Arborist
Dennis Tompkins, the Evergreen Arborist