How to Save Evergreens from Death by Snow

Now that the title has your attention, could someone please tell us how?

Blizzard-Damaged 'Little Gem' Magnolia, left, and Foster Holly

To appreciate the damage in context, check out the “before” photo below showing the magnolia on the left, then some aucubas, and the poor holly on the right.

Happier days for the magnolia and holly.

Snow damage to evergreens is the BIG topic on my local gardening Yahoo group, starting with the message about a 40-foot-tall Leyland Cypress being downed in our last blizzard.  She got lots of recommendations (after the fact – thanks!) about tougher plants she could have used – especially the ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae.  (I confess having spoken up to recommend it myself).  Seems they’re THE recommended replacement these days for the troublesome Leylands.

Popular screening evergreen Arborvitae 'Green Giant'

The other after-the-fact advice mentioned judicious pruning, and of course the ever-popular “gentle” removal of snow as it’s falling.

What the Experts Recommend
But moving beyond neighborhood “wisdom”, what Extension Service experts recommend is indeed judicious pruning – of wayward branches that could easily break off.  Or for serious snow areas, the elaborate tying up of the prized evergreens.  Here’s what the Washington State website advises:

Upright conifers such as yews, cypress, and arborvitae may be pruned lightly to reduce any sprawling branches. Then wrap the plants lightly with twine, winding it up the tree. Tie it loosely. This wrapping process keeps vertical evergreens such as those in hedges from collecting a lot of snow in the centers of the plants and falling open. Often that damage spoils the look of a neat hedge. Remove the wrapping when mild weather arrives.

Or we could consult some experts in big snow- in Minnesota, but their advice is basically the same.

So we all know what we’re supposed to do.  And tonight you’re all out doing the wrap or the gentle snow-lift to protect your prize evergreens, right?  Me, I’ll be downloading movies from Netflix and hoping for the best.

Text and photos by Susan Harris.

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