Not good news, I'm afraid. I'd like you to take a garden trowel and dig around the base of the tree. Follow the trunk down until you find the first large main roots that come …out of the trunk. How deep are they below the soil/mulch line? My guess is that before you find those roots you will find the wrapping material from when the tree was planted. It will likely be a plastic twine that is tied around the trunk. As the tree grows, it eventually presses agasint the twine, choking and strangling itself. Sap is cut off, and the tree declines and eventually dies. There were probably some signs last year, but if you don't suspect a problem, you won't notice them at first. IF you find the wrappings, or if the main roots are more than just 3 or 4 inches deep, the tree was improperly planted, and doomed from the start. Unfortunately, this is all too common a problem. If you had a warranty, it has probably expired. When planting a tree, it is important that all wrapping materials be removed from the root ball, or at least from the taop half of the root ball. All twine must be cut, any wire cut and removed, and the burlap-either natural fiber or synthetic-must be removed. Many landscapers and tree planters will say it's OK to leave it. That is WRONG! The use of synthetic materials means that stuff won't decay, and it will kill the trees. Also, the main buttress roots at the base should be level with the surrounding ground. Leaving the wrappings on leads to planting the trees too deep, which can have the same effect. This is not just my thoughts on the topic. It is well documented in the scientific literature. Google "tree planting" for more on this subject. .
garry marcell-louisville,ky. . ( Full Answer )