February 6, 2011
No doubt we all either have, or have seen the burden of recent snows on our trees and shrubs. Many shrubs, particularly evergreens, are laying on the ground, or have their form split open from the weight of the snow. It is tempting to knock the snow off and liberate these poor shrubs but often to do so is more damaging than waiting patiently for spring.
Many shrubs have iced over as well as succumbed to the weight of all the snow we have had in the Northeast this winter. We have all felt burdened as of late and the desire to limit the suffering of another living thing can be strong. However, knocking the snow off of shrubs and trees can actually be more damaging than allowing the snow and ice to melt off. Limbs can be cracked and/or broken, foliage damaged, etc. Instead, wait until the spring which the groundhog has told us is just weeks away. My gardeners gut tells me this will be a powerful spring, warm, sweet and full of new growth both in the garden and in the economy so take advantage of it.
When the snow melts off, assess the damage. Is there none, minor or more serious damage? In most cases there is none, the shrub bounces back to its original form in a day or so. In some cases, particularly with arborvitae and junipers, there is minor damage, the shape of the plant has been split by the snow and it appears to have gaps where once it was solid. In these instances take some twine and tie the main leaders of the shrub together tight enough on the bottom, middle and top so that it has regained its form, but not too tight (it will look like its wearing a girdle) and leave it this way for a few weeks. Then be sure to cut the twine off.
If damage is severe, there has been split of broken branches action will depend o the extent of the damage. If there is just a little split in the crotch of a branch, you can tape the two branches near the Y where the split has occurred with electrical tape or first aid tape and the cambium layers will knit back together. If one of the branches is bent down, you can try bending it back up and taping it. Some arborists actually recommend putting a screw through it, but I tend to go with pruning off the severely bent branch myself. These techniques will work on evergreens and deciduous trees and shrubs.
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