Last weekend’s heavy snowfall has most of my trees and shrubs
absolutely crushed! Should I cut the bent branches off? My
ornamental pear lost a big branch. Do you think it can be saved, or
will it have to be removed?
A. My best
recommendation is to wait until the snow melts - even a bit longer -
before you grab the chainsaw or pruners. Many trees and shrubs look
downright pitiful now. I have an informal (unsheared) hedge of yews
that looks like someone dumped a tri-axle full of snow on them. They
are normally eight to ten feet tall – right now they are about half
that size! If anything, take a broom and GENTLY try to brush the
accumulated snow and ice off of the plants.
HARD TO GET
IT ALL REMOVED
Don’t worry if you cannot remove all
of it; just try to get the worst of it off. Do not grab a shovel;
you could wind up causing more damage than the snow did.
Clump birches, like the one above, usually
straighten up once Spring weather arrives.
Large areas of torn bark, like
you see on this Cherry
tree, are usually a sign the tree needs to be removed.
Once the snow
melts off, you need to give them some time before pruning. Because
it has been so cold, those branches are “frozen” in place. Give them
a chance to thaw out and see if they regain their normal shape. Many
of them will surprise you and spring back to normal with no
permanent damage. It wouldn’t hurt to wait until early-mid March
when temperatures are more comfortable for you to work. Once you can
more clearly assess any real damage, then you can
branches back to their point of origin on a main branch, or even
back to the ground.
As for your ornamental pear tree, it depends on how much damage
occurred when the large branch came down. If the bark on the trunk
of the tree was badly torn when the branch fell, it may be best to
remove it. You should hire a professional tree service to care for
any tree over 30 feet tall that has storm damage. They have the
training and equipment to safely deal with larger trees and assess
the soundness of trees damaged by the storm.
Worst case scenario for an
Pear with all the major braches broken.
Large limbs high in a tree and
out of reach
are best left for the professionals.
The damage to your
ornamental pear points out the main problem with these otherwise
useful trees: they have a very upright growth habit with steep
crotch angles where branches attach to the trunk. This is a much
weaker attachment than branches with a more horizontal attachment,
and they are commonly damaged during storms, or by snow and ice.
Another problem is that they have been over-planted in many
neighborhoods and on commercial properties. This lack of diversity
could be a problem if an insect or disease should attack ornamental
pears, much like the devastation wrought by Dutch elm disease on the
American elm or the current scourge of emerald ash borer on native
species of ash.
with snow damage in mind
If you are advised to remove this tree, consider
with a different species, both to increase diversity and to
avoid the heartbreak of heaving the tree destroyed in a storm.