We are getting inquiries about how to handle damage seen on shrubs and small trees. You may see more evidence of broken branches as the snow recedes – or you may find that the snow acted as a support cushion under the branches.
What can you do?
We are advising that you resist pushing on or otherwise testing the branches. If we provide garden maintenance services for you, we would prefer to evaluate any partially detached branches to see if they can be reattached. And wiggling them to see just how much they wiggle (admit it – you want to do this) can make the tear more acute. In some instances, a clean removal cut may be advised to allow the plant to start healing the wound immediately. But in some cases, when the branch is still mostly attached, and if determined to be significant to the plant for health or aesthetic reasons, we can bind, brace or use a stainless steel screw to bring the two split sides together. Some of you may have seen us use this approach with a Japanese Maple branch and the plant heals over the crack and envelops the screw.
If you want to tackle this on your own – observe the crack and figure out if the branch is still attached by greater than 50%. If the branch is a major branch for form, structure and/or leaf coverage (food production), try binding it with a splint to stabilize the force pulling the two sides apart. Don’t tie so tightly that you overly constrict the sap flow in the bark, and remove it this fall to evaluate whether the crack has healed enough to stand alone or take a looser brace for the winter. If the branch is not healing quickly, we would most likely advise removing it since leaving a torn wound is an entrance point for disease and pest invasion.
You can always send us a photo – firstname.lastname@example.org