Heavy springs snows are a wonderful way to get free moisture into your landscape. Although the moisture is very valuable, heavy wet snow can collect on branches and break them. If the branches break in a bad place, it can cause terrible damage to your trees and shrubs.
Here are a few tips to help protect these valuable plants.
Use a broom to know snow off trees and shrubs periodically.
Put on your winter gear (including a hood) and grab your broom. On any trees or shrubs that are collecting large amounts of snow, gently knock the branches so the snow falls off. You may have to do this every few hours depending on how fast the snow is falling. If you can convince your spouse to take on this task, it can be great fun to watch them get covered with snow from the warmth of a cozy window seat.
Plants with upright branches and weak wood are the most at risk.
If enough snow collects on upright branches, it can create enough weight to permanently bend them outwards like an onion blossom at Chili’s. Common plants that suffer this fate are upright junipers and shrubs with broad, arching branches. Focus your attention on these plants. Some gardeners even wrap twine around upright junipers in the fall- and remove it in spring- to prevent branch damage.
In addition, quick-growing trees often have weak wood that snaps easily, like silver maples, some poplars, cottonwoods, and Siberian elms. If the branches are low enough for you to reach them, it’s worth giving them a gentle knock. The nice thing is, you usually don’t have to worry about trees with downward-sloping branches (like spruces) and slow-growing deciduous trees.
Don’t worry about ornamental grasses and perennials.
If you haven’t finished cleaning up your landscape yet, don’t worry about saving your ornamental grasses and perennials. Although the snow may totally flatten the old brown stems, it’s time to cut back last year’s growth anyway. The new green growth emerging at the base is usually unaffected. Sometimes their awkward appearance right after a spring snow is what motivates some of us to finally break out the pruning shears!
If you have time between your mugs of hot cocoa, take a few minutes to knock the snow off your trees and shrubs during spring snowstorms. You’ll be rewarded with intact branches and moist soil when it all melts.