Winter Storm Damage to Your Landscape

Oak with Snowy Branches

Now that Snowpocalypse 2010 is over (Snowmageddon was a close second for my fav name, with SnOMG a distant third), what has it done to your plants? It was a really wet, heavy snow; my river birch were almost bent completely over into the snow until the sun began to warm them up Sunday. Some plants aren’t so resilient. My neighbor asked me to take a look at her Little Gem Magnolia. The weight of the snow had pulled the very top of the leader down and broken it partway through. Can it be saved? Maybe, maybe not. We discussed options, and hopefully the tree will heal well and bounce back.

The only way to know how your landscape fared is to take a walk around your property, if you can. At the very least, look out as many windows as you can to assess any potential damage. Some things are critical and should be dealt with immediately, such as damage to large trees, overhanging branches, or anything touching your home or utility lines. In cases like this I highly recommend following the same rules I do: if I can safely remove a branch by myself, with both feet planted firmly on terra firma, it’s reasonable to do so. Having somehow survived making unsafe choices throughout my early 20s, I recommend against pruning anything that requires you to work on a ladder.

After a winter like this one, it could be a good idea to create a detailed landscape maintenance plan. Here’s what I do for my clients:

  1. Starting with a scale drawing of the property, locate all major features (hardscapes, utilities, trees, etc.)
  2. Inventory and locate all smaller trees, shrubs, and perennials
  3. Make note of ANY damaged plants or structures
  4. Create an action list of tasks to be performed, with photographic examples if appropriate

At that point, they can go one of three directions with the list. They can tackle it themselves; they can do the work with me there as a garden coach, helping them do it correctly; or they can have my crew perform the work. Whichever path they choose, a little pre-planning makes it easy to get the desired result.

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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