Our royal palm came down the other day — not by wind or disease, but by choice and chainsaw. It had simply become too worrisome, too big for its britches, too big for our own good.
Joe and I first planted the tree in the ‘90s. We had just purchased our Fort Lauderdale home and went about the yard planting a variety of small palm trees because they were cheaper and would eventually be fully grown by the time we made the move to be full-time Floridians.
For the royal, we chose the backyard, near the corner of the house — a great location for it to provide shade as the future-us lounged and floated in our pool-to-be.
Like many new homeowners, though, we never really considered the scope — and the width and height — of “fully grown,” especially when it came to the royal. In the twenty years since it was first planted, the royal did what it was supposed to do. It grew into the reigning monarch of the yard, the pillar of the palms.
Looking back, there were issues that out of ignorance or denial we ignored. On one vacation to visit the house and clean up the yard, Joe and I discovered one of the older royal fronds — green sheathe and all — had fallen from on high.
All palms shed their older fronds, but the royal has to be big about it. Fronds from this tree are more like brontosaurus ribs — and neither Joe nor I ever considered the consequence of a royal frond falling onto our future landscaped beds and our pool-to-be.
We were fools, mere jesters in the court of the royal.
Now would be a good time to fast-forward to the present, when the yard is landscaped and the pool-to-be is an actual pool. Despite the progress and changing times, the royal continued to behave as it always had — and this created conflict and headache.
The royal struck first with the bloom of its inflorescence, a very large multi-branched collection of tiny flowers. They fell like snow on the plants below, and we chuckled about it and swept away the pollen and flowers.
With a change in wind, though, the particles fell into the pool, where they looked like thousands and thousands of floating Styrofoam beads. Again, we worked to maintain order and cleanliness, but we began to whisper under our breath that the royal was a mistake.
Then, of course, there was the continued shedding of its fronds. They fell like an iron fist — thunderous and heavy, with little regard for the plants and terra cotta pots and patio furniture below.
Again, Joe and I cleaned up the mess. With blood, sweat, and tears, we looked upward, keeping a weary eye open for the next frond assault — and we would move everything out of the line of fire.
The royal was making us, demanding us, to work — and now, we were openly talking of rebellion.
In truth, though, it was Hurricane Matthew that forced our hand. Although Fort Lauderdale escaped the brunt of the storm, Joe and I — locked behind storm shutters and unable to see — listened for any alarming sound that would indicate the royal was crashing down, either on our house or the neighbor’s.
It’s bad enough the Today Show obsesses on the comings and goings of the royals, so worrying about it in our own backyard was too much for us to bear. We hired help to bring it down.
As the climber made his cuts and large sections of the tree crashed to the ground, and as his helpers rolled the hefty sections to the street, I could only think of the statues of human history’s rulers pulled down by riotous mobs or the movie scene in which the crown — or in this case, the crown shaft — of the deposed monarch falls to the ground.
I’d like to say that bells rang out, that there was great rejoicing and happiness across the land or even in our own yard — but I can’t. There was, instead, a pile of debris and sawdust and a void where the royal once presided.
It’s never a good feeling when a tree comes down.
I do think, though, the story serves as a reminder to all homeowners — and that is to always consider the concept of “fully grown” when planting anything. If not, plantings planted with the best of intentions can quickly grow to be a royal pain.