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Handling Plants, Shrubs and Trees Damaged By Snow and Ice

With the record setting snowfall that the Baltimore-Washington region has received, there has been a lot of damage to plants, shrubs and trees in the area. Mark Dougherty, CPH (Certified Professional Horticulturist), CLP (Certified Landscape Professional) offers some suggestions on how to deal with landscape that has been impacted by snow and ice. Mark has been Chapel Valley Landscape Company’s Maryland Purchasing Manager for 26 years. He advises the company’s design build staff as well as many of the leading landscape architects in the region in evaluating, selecting and securing plant material for design and installation projects.

His first recommendation is that you need to wait for snow and ice to melt naturally before attempting to dig up or remove plant material. “You can do more damage to plant materials when you attempt to remove snow or ice, or attempt to dig them up,” he said. “The branches are obviously very cold and fragile and have the potential to break or snap off.”

To determine if a plant needs to be removed or can be saved, he recommends waiting for the snow and ice to melt and then check the branches. “If they are dried and wrinkled, you are dealing with dead plant material,” he said. He recommends that you have a certified landscape professional evaluate your plants, shrubs and trees to determine what can be saved and what may need to be replaced. If a tree is leaning but not completely uprooted, it potentially can be saved,” Mark said. “The tree can be pulled upright and staked into place. It is important that this is done right away or the process may not work,” he added.  “It depends on the type and size of the tree and you should consult a professional to determine what should and could be done,” Mark commented. Regarding replacing plant material, Mark recommends that dead plants are removed early spring once the snow has melted. “Installation of new plants should take place around the same time, before new leaves come out on deciduous plants and new growth starts on evergreens,” he commented.

When choosing replacement plants he recommends considering hardy plants that are grown in more northern environments and are able to withstand snow and ice, to reduce your chances of plant loss in the future. Also, remember to take into account that multi-stemmed evergreens are more susceptible to problems when dealing with heavy snow loads.

Make sure to evaluate your plants once the snow has melted to help keep your landscape beautiful. Now is the time to make the decisions for removal and installation of replacement plants. Spring will be here soon, and it is the optimal time to install plant material to ensure you will be able to enjoy them throughout the remainder of the year.