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Snow Load

Plants, in any form, can take the snow, but don't let it build up too much
Plants, in any form, can take the snow, but don't let it build up too much
Charlie Nardozzi

It's a great day to stay inside and watch the white stuff fly. But for us gardeners, the thoughts quickly go from beauty and serenity at the picturesque landscape, to concern for our plants. It's great we've had a consistent snow cover most of the winter so woody perennial flowers and low growing shrubs have been protected by nature's insulation. However, what about those larger shrubs and multi-stemmed trees that may be suffering due to excess snow load?

Snow load is the weight of snow on the branches of shrubs and trees. It's mostly a concern with shrubs planted around the house as foundaton plants. With feet of snow on many house roofs, home owners are inclined to shovel it off so not to have excess weight on the roof. The problem is we often just push it off the most convenient place from the roof, right onto the shrubs below. One winter I did this in my old house and buried a red twigged dogwood. I didn't think much about it until spring, when I found the dogwood branches had split from the impact of the falling snow off the roof.

The other conern is the weight of natural falling snow on shrubs. It's been cold this January and February, but that will change and the light weight snow on branches will turn heavy as it melts and freezes. Generally, it's best to let Mother Nature melt the snow off shrubs, but if you have broadleafed evergreens, such as rhododendrons, and multi-branched shrubs, such as daphne and dogwoods, it might be a good idea to reduce the snow load on the branches by gently removing some of the snow. With a small shovel, take off 1/2 to 2/3rds of the snow. Don't dig down to the branches. You're just wanting to remove some weight, not remove all the snow. The snow you leave behind will not only protect the branches from more cold temperatures, it will naturally melt faster come warm weather.

So enjoy the snow day, but when it's done, inspect your shrubs around the house to make sure they aren't weighted down by too much snow.