Trees and gardens damaged by heavy snow and extreme weather requires special care. The word of the day here is patience.
After a storm plants and trees are recovering from the stress they endure. Some of this stress is the natural state our world imposes on living things. Normally natures challenges strengthen the cell structure of plants so they can withstand future stresses. Sometimes the weather strikes with such intensity that it cracks, tears, breaks, uproots, drowns and possibly shreds plant material. The most extreme cases calls for removing and replacing. The most extreme does not happen that often and when it does it usually doesn’t repeat itself in the same exact area. For all other occasions the rule is to remove damage, stake and support (in the short run) and fertilize as needed to establish a feeder root system that will help the plant material compartmentalize and begin growing replacement parts. Sounds easy right? Sorry but NO, it is not easy. Patience will be the great equalizer that gets you through the stages of trauma.
Let’s begin with after you, personally, recover from the trauma of “oh shit where do I begin.”
A tree has cracked and broken branches are everywhere. How high is the damage, how large was the tree, you want to keep it as long as it isn’t dangerous, is it worth the money to fix it or better to remove and replant a new one, can I do it myself, who knows how to fix these things, why are there so many questions running through my head… Relax and again be patient. This isn’t brain surgery yet it can be very involved. If you are considering fixing and restoring an existing landscape that has been damaged please search for someone with knowledge and experience to guide you and give you choices. If you would like to do all the work yourself then GO FOR IT. Remember to get advice, take your time and consider the value of every choice to be made. Not rocket science but very involved and can prove to cost you more than expected (time, equipment, disposal and possible accidents).
Now we begin. The storm has passed and all damage assessed. Evergreens are tied up so as not to girdle the branch you want to save. Pruning to reduce weight load, at the end of branches, so future storms will do little to no damage. This last pruning idea also helps to re-divert energies to the root system and remaining plant parts. Woody Ornamentals, like Hydrangeas, can be cut within a few inches of the ground but if you can save some longer stems and cut back to a healthy bud that would be wonderful. With woody ornamentals I try to give the old part of the plant an opportunity to prove itself while the areas with severe damage and cuts can push new growth that the following years will be used to redesign the new specimen. Ornamental Trees, like Japanese Maples, Pear, Apple, Plum, Snowbell, Stewartia, Cherry, Redbud, Willow, Magnolia, Beech and so many others, need to be managed, I mean pruned, from the outside and from the inside. Ornamental trees damaged by storms have challenges but the truth is there are challenges with all plant material damaged in storms.
Knowledge is power. Experience is the only true educator within nature. Understanding how a particular plant will respond to pruning is everything in restoration pruning. QUESTION: Do you want to come home and everything is done or do you want to be the weekend warrior and attempt things yourself? When you answer this last question you know what to do and how to begin. I do promise whatever choice you make will put you I meant to say your garden, on the path to recovery. So goodbye and good luck until our words and thoughts once again blow past one another.