Dead Trees Don’t Come Back

July 19, 2010 | By | Comments (5)

Dead tree

People sometimes ask me, “What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?” I scratch my head for a moment and reply, “If the sky were cheese, could you eat it?”

“No, no,” they say. “What’s the dumbest gardening question you’ve ever been asked?”

That question goes something like this.

“Dear Grumpy, our tree did not leaf out this spring. Now it’s July and it still has no leaves. Do trees sometimes skip a year between leafing out?

Answer: Sure — just like people sometimes skip a year of breathing.

For those of you still not sure whether the answer is yay or nay, let me be more direct. NAY!!!!!

Except for desert plants that respond quickly to the presence or absence of water, any common garden tree or shrub that refuses to leaf out in spring or drops all of its leaves in spring or summer is a goner. Dead. Past-tense. Kaput. It doesn’t skip a year. You can dress in robes and chant around it during the harvest moon all you want, be it ain’t coming back. You’ll have to buy a new one.

O-o-oklahoma, Where the Grump Goes Sweating O’er the Plains


This week, I’ll be paying my second visit to the outstanding Linnaeus Teaching Gardens at the Tulsa Garden Center. (I wrote about it last year. See “Top-Notch in Tulsa.“). My first visit was to scout. Now I’m bringing back photographer Van Chaplin to shoot the story. Barry Fugatt, the Garden Center’s Director of Horticulture, assures me that a cold front will miraculously move through Tulsa tonight and drop the daytime temperature to 82 for the rest of the week.

Barry, I’m counting on you.


  1. Rhonda

    An old (and wise) Hort professor of mine would have taken one look at this deceased tree and said:
    “Prune it at the roots”
    A truly epic line in the classroom.

    August 23, 2010 at 9:39 am
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    I used to work in a nursery, so I’ve been there. Favorite questions from customers:
    1. Got any japonicas?
    2. Got any anonymous?
    3. Got any hygeraniums?
    4. Will that plant kill my horse?
    5. Where are your blue trees?
    I sent it to our IT people, which means it should be taken care of in the next year or so.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:35 am
  3. helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    Hey Steve,
    I just wanted you to know I added your blog to the soon to be launched North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association blog roll for NC Blogs!
    I also wanted to make sure you received my new link for Gardening With Confidence’s blog
    I hope you are doing well!

    July 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm
  4. Henry H.

    Steve I feel your pain. Try selling Xmas trees one year and you will understand why. Here are some COMMON question I get asked every year and my responses….
    Q: This tree looks dead!!!!
    A: Yeah that tends to happen when you CUT A TREE DOWN
    Q: This tree is kinda crooked!!!!
    A: God doesn’t grow many straight trees ma’am but you can ask him on sunday what the deal is
    Q: Now if I plant this in my yard after Xmas, will it grow??
    A: Yes it will but for some reason they grow best when planted in the front yard by the street.
    Q: How much will it drink over the month
    A: Depends on how crazy you and your in-laws are.
    Q: If I forget to put water in the bottom will it die???
    Steve I could do this all day……

    July 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm
  5. Pomona Belvedere

    I love botanical gardens and will be real interested to see what you have to say about the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens (great name!)
    I think you can consider it a good omen if you’re getting Oklahoma weather in the eighties…

    July 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm

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