How many of you had deep sadness this spring when you saw the snow’s violent impact on your favorite Weeping Japanese Maple, Mounded Pine, or other beloved plant? Christie Dustman & Co. spent much of the spring in plant triage mode; in many cases, we had to remove and replace the plant.
The problem with mixing winter and plants is that the plant’s branch carrying capacity – tensile strength of the limb – can be overtaxed by the weight sitting on it. A large volume of light and fluffy snow is much easier for the branch to bear than the same volume of heavy wet snow.
Heavy weight on limbs causes different effects:
Bending: When a branch bends, it still is attached and can generally right itself when relieved. The branches sag downward.
Breaking: If the branch bends too far, it breaks and often tears or rips off of the plant, leaving an ugly torn area of bark. In the spring we cleanly re-cut the break and trim the edges of the ripped bark so that the plant can try to heal over this open wound.
Splitting: This is when two branches attach in a V shape and the attachment of the two fanning branches is weak. We call it a “weak crotch” in arborist terms. Many Japanese Maples had weak crotches that split last winter. For some, we used a stainless steel screw and cinched them back together; if this didn’t didn’t provide enough stability, we had to remove one large limb or say goodbye to the whole plant.
Uprooting: If the snow pulls over the plant or tree, we call this a plant failure. This sort of damage is more common with high winds combined with weight on the plant.
So what can you do to minimize damage? Let us implement these solutions at your house:
Lightly tie/bind columnar evergreens or other vase-shaped type plants for added resistance against the branches splaying open and breaking. Don’t cinch too tightly – just tie loosely like a hair net. We use a stretchy Arborist tape.
Prop up horizontal limbs from underneath with a Bamboo support or with another tree branch with a crook in it.
Build an A-frame structure over a Weeping Japanese Maple or mounded type shrubs in vulnerable locations – like where shoveled snow will collect or slide off a roof.
Very carefully knock off snow from plants where you see them sagging. This is NOT advisable if the snow is icy and is stuck on the branch or if you apply a lot of force. You can do more damage.
Protect your favorite and most valuable plants. We are fabricating custom winter protection solutions for our clients – both A-frames that can be reused year to year as well as tying/propping up limbs. Call us and we can devise an individualized solution for your plants!