Dealing With Winter Damage

It’s early spring; time to survey the damage that this exceptionally hard winter has produced. In some areas, shrubs may still be hiding under piles of frozen snow. Severed tree limbs lie scattered across the landscape. It’s difficult to know what to tackle first.


Start with your trees, they are generally the most valuable additions to your property. As you survey the damage ask yourself “Is this tree salvageable or should it be removed?” If the damage is extensive, or if you are unsure, hire a professional for a consultation. Replacing a severely damaged tree with a younger one, perhaps a type that you like even better, may be the best solution.

If a limb is broken somewhere along its length, or damaged beyond repair, employ good pruning practices and saw off the remaining piece at the branch collar being careful not to cut into the trunk of the tree or leave a stub. Sometimes a fallen limb may strip bark from the tree trunk. To repair this damage, cut the ragged edges of the loose bark away from the stripped area to the firmly affixed healthy bark. Nature will take care of the rest. If the trunk of the tree is split, the tree may still be saved. For large trees, repairing this type of damage usually requires cabling and bracing done by a professional. If the tree is still young, the crotch may be pulled tightly together and tied or taped until the wound eventually heals.


Follow the same instructions as for trees, however, most shrubs are resilient and slowly regain their shape as the weather warms. If branches are bent but not broken, you may tie them together to help them along. Do not tie tightly and remove twine after about a year. Again, if the damage is severe, you may need to replace the plant.