The deadly winter storms that have wreaked havoc in large swaths of the country recently can also damage trees and shrubs.
Snow can of course enhance the look of yards and gardens, visually knitting together the plants, fences, even lawn furniture in a sea of white. But it also can bring down branches. Or worse, snap a major limb on a tree or split a bush wide open.
Most trees and shrubs will recover from such trauma, sending up new sprouts in the spring to replace missing limbs. But there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and help the plant heal. There also are ways to help protect trees from the weather.
The ragged edge from a broken branch exposes a lot of surface area, which slows healing, so cut back any break cleanly to leave a surface that heals better.
Many gardeners’ first inclination, however, before doing any pruning, would be to save what is broken, merely putting the broken limb back in place and holding it there the way a doctor sets a broken bone. It can be done, just as if it were a large graft.
As with any graft, success is most likely if plant parts are lined up, held still and not given the opportunity to dry out. So attempt this fix immediately, especially for evergreens, which lose water through their leaves all winter. Re-align the break and then immobilize the joined parts with stakes and splints. After binding everything together tightly (I like to use electrical tape), seal in moisture by painting every cut part with “Tree-Kote” or some other moisture-resistant barrier.