The days after snow and ice have damaged plants, it is good to assess the situation.
Here is how I recommend doing your assessment: Plant triage!
- Obviously, if a tree has partially fallen or has completely crashed and damaged your house and or property, you need to have it taken care of immediately! Call your insurance agent first and next hire a licensed, insured and bonded arborist to take care of it.
- If a tree has come down and is blocking your driveway and has not actually damaged anything, and you cannot get an arborist to take care of it, you should cut it out of the way, and chop it up, or give Winterbloom a call to do it for you.
- If a bush is leaning over a path or the driveway so that you cannot get by, you may prune it, but be judicious about it. You can cut back inside farther on the thicker branches. Be more cautious with the smaller branches.
- If bushes are leaning over, or hanging in different directions from the snow and ice damage, and are not in the way of anything, please refrain from pruning them and wait to see how they will bud out in the spring. This is especially important if it is a spring bloomer such as rhododendron or camellia. You will want to do some aesthetic and/or corrective pruning after it blooms. If you are uncomfortable in doing this, call Winterbloom and we can come out and help you.
- If you see some smaller bushes or perennials which are questionable in health or are damaged due to the ice and snow, do not prune them yet, but wait to see how they bud out, and at that time determine how much you should cut them back. An example of this is the fuchsia. In mild winters, they can rebud up on the stem and you will have a large full plant. Leaving them taller and waiting to cut them back until they bud out, will help you to plan how big of a plant that you want in that space. In cold winters, fuchsias may often come up only from the base of the plant and then also emerge later than usual. If you cut it back too far in anticipation of this, you may inadvertently damage the buds at the bottom or on the stem or you might forget that it was there if you cut it too short and think it a weed in the spring when it does decide to emerge!
- Many perennials that are dormant in the winter and look ugly anyway, should be cut down to two inches tall. This can be done anytime that you do not have snow on the ground, so that you can see what you are doing, and not stomp all over the adjacent plants while you are pruning. Only prune when there is snow on the ground if it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, either wait till the snow is gone or wait till you see buds and know what you need to do.