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Archive date:  February 4, 2016

Snowy Distortions

What to do about snow damaged plants…

I’ve had more than a few inquiries with regard to concerns about shrubbery being disfigured by heavy snowfall.  It can be disconcerting. We all know how long it takes to get plants to the size where they make the ‘statement’ in the landscape we are looking for.  It is tough to watch helplessly as melting snow progressively disfigures prized conifers and broadleafs. 

So, what to do? What initially seems like absolute destruction of a focal plant often is far less damaged than first appearances.  You may need to do nothing. Time takes care of many such occurrences.  However, some plants are so situated that they take an unusually heavy load of frozen precipitation.  The usual suspects are evergreens.  It is wonderful to have plants with foliage over the winter, but that very trait makes them susceptible.

Apart from those that sufficiently recover, there are two groups of damage and, in my mind, two ways of dealing with the damage.  First, there are those plants that are bent over, perhaps to the ground.  This is most common on more juvenile or heavy shade plants.  Often times their stems are only strong enough to support their own weight.  In that case, it may be necessary to affix a 1” X 1” stake alongside the stem for support.  By adding this structure, it will allow the stem to regain sufficient strength, but it may have to stay on the plant for a full year.

Next, and most common, is the separated stems effect.  This occurs often on multi-stemmed plants.  The snow-load simply creates large gaps between the branches where there were formerly none.  A trick that works well is simply tying the branches together; that is to say, weave twine back and forth, progressively pulling the branches closer together until the gaps are narrowed sufficiently.  It is then a good idea to trim and shape the plant. By doing so, the new growth of spring will usually cover any remaining empty spaces.

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David Bates