In the 36 years of living at my grounds all of the damage ever done to my landscape grounds added together does not equal the damage which occurred last Saturday, November 13, 2010.
I live just west of Hopkins in the western suburbs. My little piece of heaven received over 20 inches of the very heavy wet stuff over about an 8 hour period. Ten to fifteen trees and shrubs were shredded, stripped of lateral branches or main stems cracked in half.
I had spent about six hours fighting the snow cover, carefully knocking off globs upon globs of sticky stuff without stop…..except to retire to the house for ten minutes or enough time to replace the boots, pants, jacket and all with drier boots, pants, jacket and all, placing the wet into the clothes drier, and go back okutside to battle the elements.
After four such exercises it all came to a halt when the power went out……and stayed out for more than 24 hours.
It is a gloomy life in Minnesota in a gloomy, dark and ever getting colder house when there is no power in winter time.
The worst hit were my maturing white pines, especially the beautiful specimen just north of my house. Six or seven 6″ plus thick branches snapped of and came crashing down to the ground taking other branches along with……and crushing anything and everything beneath.
My spectacula flowering crab apple at pondside split in half as did the younger specimen out front.
I saved all of the ten or so deGroots arborvitae, but some will look rough until next spring. I also saved my 17 foot PJM Rhododendron in the front garden, but it has slumped about two feet for a while.
My deer fences were broken and in many areas became frozen to the ground requiring extra effort today to dig them out and resurrect them.
I could go on and on, but it might get depressing for all.
Some clients have called regarding damage in their own grounds.
Here are some good generalizations.
Evergreen shrubs both global and spreaders…..
Both junipers and arborvitae are easily crunched under weighty wet snow. Last year 8 foot arborvitae globes disappeared under the snow until Spring thaw.
Arborvitae foliage is breakfast, lunch and supper for a host of animals, including rabbits and mice. When its foliage is buried under snow, the smaller varmints nesting close by, don’t have to move to far to set up life in a candy and steak house all in one. The word arbor…vitae means tree of life, for the exceptional amount of vitamin C held in its foliage. Mice and rabbits know a good healthy meal when they see or smell one.
If you permit the arborvitaes to be buried under snow all winter, you might find the rodents have finished off the foliage below the snow line…..not a pretty sight. I had a specimen Siberian Arborvitae buried in snow early last December and never saw it again until spring thaw. The entire plant had been ravaged by hungry rodents which with the broken branchings, made the plant hardly worth saving. It was 25 years old and in perfect shape.
I save its general appearance by careful pruning in Spring, but it no longer served well as a background screen with all of the foliage under 4 feet eaten away.
Of all of the conifers, don’t worry too much about yews. Yew wood is exceedingly strong and isn’t likely to snap over anything much like snow.
Some upright confifers will tip completely over due to the wet ground around the crown area. If the tree can be uprighted and stabilized, it should recover in Spring as if nothing ever happened.
Most deciduoud shrubs bend and look deformed after such a snowfall as last Saturday, but they aren’t much threatened.
If the tree is rather of a tender variety, such as a redbud or a special magnolia, and some branches have split, a decision must be made as to when to do the pruning. If the tree is perfectly hard in our garden zone, such as a white oak or green ash, you can do all of your pruning corrections now without worry….for the tree most likely will not be further injured because of a major cold snap.
With pears, apricots, apples, or crabapples, all members of the rose family on might want to wait to prune until late February paying attention not to add more exposed wood to the extreme cold which might add winter cold injury to the snowfall injury.
For these rose family plants and the plums, it is best to do whatever prunings in late February or early March….late enough into winter for the plant to harden off well, and early enough for the wounds to heal sufficiently to reduce chances of being exposed to fireblight bacteria in the later spring…..a killer disease of all of these rose family trees.
When you are removing snow from your trees and shrubs, especially the evergreen conifers, be sure not to press up on the middle bow of the branch between the tree and the tip of the brance weighted down to the ground by the heavy snow. Pressing up on that strained bow of the woody trunk may snap and break the stem in half…..expecially true of junipers and arborvitae. Try to loosen any foliage stuck to the ground ice from the foliage area only and stir it gently to free each branch.
Keep this also in mind as you weary quickly working in the snow…..you will wear out more quickly in snowy conditions than in the joy of summer.
Some small trees are especially susceptible to winter snow damage….the showy crabapples for one.
The wood splits easily, especially if the tree is laden with decorative fruit.