There are many reasons why a tree could die back -- pests, diseases, weather/climate adversity, watering (or lack of). However, you mentioned that you used a fertilizer spike a foot and half from the ""base"". If you mean the trunk, then you may have overdosed your tree and it died back as a result of fertilizer burn. Even though they suggest placing the spikes at the dripline, there's a minimum distance of about 3 feet from very young trees that needs to be observed. It depends on the brand, but some state this precaution on their label.
It is possible that some other cause is to blame, but you'd need to take the tree in to someone who can diagnose it visually, like an extension office, or a local nursery.
HOpefully, you bought it from a place that guarantees their plants for a full year and will offer you a replacement.
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