What can one do on a day such as this other than walk through the slush and ice and snow and view the tree and shrub breakage in winter's aftermath and then ponder the cleanup required?
What can one do on a day such as this other than walk through the slush and ice and snow and view the tree and shrub breakage in winter's aftermath and ponder the cleanup required?
When Mother Nature does the pruning, her saw is delicate snowflakes and little icy raindrops that fall so softly. But they pack a big punch, for she really is the iron hand in the velvet glove.
Storms are her way of pruning. An unfeeling parent, she simply disposes of the old, the weak and the imperfect to make space for new plants, which teaches us a tough lesson.
Understanding why trees and shrubs break during snow and ice storms is the first step toward preventing future damage.
Quite simply, when the weight on the ends of branches or bent tops is more than the tensile strength of frozen stems and trunks can bear, they break.
Ice and snow are heavy. The weight multiplies with each new quarter-inch layer. Weak or unbalanced branches crack and fall. Wind compounds the problem.
The most vulnerable are fine-twigged plants like azalea and dogwood, or fine branched trees. The close-growing twigs hold more snow and ice and therefore carry more weight.
Remember where your snow covered branches are bent to the ground, for those are the ones that need to be shortened or lightened when the careful spring pruning is done. Write it down and take a photo.
For now, let sun and rain gently melt off the snow and ice, drop by drop. Do not bang the branches with shovels or sticks.
If the snow is light, a gentle pull at the end of a branch will dislodge some. But gently. If given a chance, the stems will eventually spring back upright. Not all at once, but gradually they will straighten.
Do necessary safety pruning as needed, but remember that when plant parts are frozen solid, they're very fragile, like brittle glass.
Broken-off branches of early bloomers like forsythia and cherry can be brought indoors now and forced into bloom. Willow, too.
Check for potential damage and for safety to the house or overhead wires. For seriously damaged or worrisome trees, call a Certified Arborist to assess the damage and the tree's future growth potential. Don't let just anyone with a power saw attack your storm damage.
A properly trained arborist can often salvage a hurt tree and identify dangerous trees and limbs that need attention or cabling wires.
Expert pruning can restore the center of gravity to an unbalanced tree, or lighten the load so it will better withstand the next storm.
If any trees are leaning on wires on the street, notify the electric company.
Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening information can be found on her Web site: www.mothersgarden.net.