We have had late, late Spring ‘winter’ storms in the past. One, one of the worst, occured as late as early May with a dumping here of 13 inches. My conifers weren’t into teenagers or adults yet. They were still so cuddly and easily managed.
Not all conifers are equal in their abilities to stay in one piece during excessively heavy snowfalls. Let me start with the toughest….or better yet, those which easily handle heavy snows no matter how scruntched they may look…..
Balsem Fir, the firs in general, Colorado Spruce, and the Spruce in general lead the list of those who are stiff enough to endure about any weight….The proudest spruce of all, the one that stands the same with or without any weight on its shoulders is the Norway Spruce cultivar, Hillside.
Then there are the categories of conifers which are so supple they may bend all over with out breaking anything…..Chamaecyparis, some Arborvitaes, Sherwood forest and Rheingold, for instance.
Hemlocks don’t bend at the trunk, but the foliage droops easily under snow weight. I have about ten Hemlocks, all Canadian Hemlock type, and have never seen a split branch from any cause.
Pines vary. The worst of all conifers in heavy ice storms is the native White Pine. In its native woods they grow densely unable to spread the canopy. My 70 foot 2nd year ten inch seedlings were planted in 1976 to celebrate our Nation’s 200th anniversary. All entertained sandy loam soild with plenty of leaf mulch every year. Some, planted closer together rather than as a specimen, are shorter and have developed less broad branchings. They aren’t troubled by icy snow. But my tallest, a beautiful specimen, lost about thirty major very broad branchings which couldn’t endure the 32″ snowfall of November 13 a few years ago. As they came crasching to the ground, they destroyed fell branches below them. After some pruning cleanup, the tree displays more character than beauty.
An excellent much smaller and slower growing by Nature is the Swiss Stone Pine. Once thought not to be hardy here in the Twin Cities, actually in my professional landscaping life time, it seems quite at home and appears immune to any and all icy invasions of these grounds.
I believe it safe to write….all junipers seem to ignore snow and ice weights. Their branchings don’t seem to spread…..What one has to look for is the entire plant, if it is pyramidaly might snap in half under snow if it is bent looping to the ground.
Among the arborvitaes, the Sunkist, Yellow Ribbon and Sherwood Forest seem to bend well. Degroot’s arborvitae may snap or be stripped of some vertical stems under snow weight, and the pyramidal might break in two, when under ten feet tall.
One way to protect your pyramidaly type conifers, especially the arborvitaes, is to prune a couple inches off of the foliage to tighten up future growth. If done regularly for about six or so years, these arborvitaes are dense enough in foliage not only to withstand nearly any snow weight, but to stand proud as if it couldn’t be bothered by such petti matters as a foot of snow in April.