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.
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.
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!