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Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Storm damage can now be added to our list of what has happened to our landscape plants. The drought of 2012 started things off creating lots of stressed trees, shrubs and evergreens from recently planted to very mature plants. Jump ahead to the winter of 2013 - 2014 and the very cold winter temperatures above ground and the frost below ground. We did have a bright spot with all the snow to protect our perennials. Recently, the summer storms have wreaked havoc on mainly older larger trees and evergreens. Chainsaws can be heard in every part of town where the storms were the worst.

Figuring out what to do with a storm-damaged tree can be troubling. General tree health can guide us to decide to try to save the plant or go ahead and remove it. A tree that already has had canopy damage in the past or heavily decayed may not be the tree to save. You may just decide that the tree will never look good again and that may be the deciding factor. If there was structural damage associated with the tree, then your insurance company may influence whether or not the tree stays or goes.

Broken branches throughout the canopy is better than having lost a large limb which permanently disfigures the tree. An arborist can provide you with the condition of your tree, an estimate of repair and other future needs for your tree.

Branches broken in the canopy need to be pruned properly to prevent future decay. This also can mean that the remaining portions of the canopy will need to be thinned to maintain plant health. Large branches that have broken out of the trunk pose a more difficult repair and recovery. Most often the wood is torn out well into the heartwood which leaves a deep wound that is slow to heal, or never does, even after many years. The edges of the wound need to be smoothed or rounded over to allow callous tissue to grow over the wounded area. Callous tissue grows at about one half inch a year, so you can see why it can take so long to heal. Wound dressings are no longer recommended, as research has shown no measurable help in wound healing.

With the strong winds and wet soils, evergreen trees have been seen listing or on their sides. Evergreen trees have, relative to shade trees, a shallow root system. Evergreen canopies act as a big sail in the wind and when coupled with wet soils where the roots can slip, the result is often an evergreen tree lying on its side with no other apparent damage. If the evergreen is younger, there may be a possibility of righting the tree and re-burying the roots. Until roots regrow those evergreens need to be supported for several years and in some cases, for the life of the tree. Larger evergreen trees are much harder to deal with and the root loss is usually too severe for recovery.