This extremely rude specimen has been affectionately named “Happy” – and I always avert my eyes when brushing off the snow. I’d like that bit of errant bark to make me smile just as broadly in ten years as it does now.

An end-of-days snowfall is coming to the Mid-Atlantic this afternoon, if reports are to be believed.  You may be perfectly prepared for the storm itself and have five shovels lined up in the garage for each member of your family, but what about your trees and shrubs?  A few things to think about before you a) go out in waist-high snow waving a broom, or b) ignore the issue of heavy snow all together.

Identify the trees and shrubs which are likely to suffer from snow damage – trees with large lateral branches like Leland cypress, or those whose wide evergreen foliage catch snow and cause them to bend, such as arborvitae, or split their shape, such as pyramidal box or holly.  In dry snow conditions, and to prevent drastic build-up, every couple of hours brush the snow off with a broom or put on a hat and scarf and lightly shake the tree from the trunk.

If the snow is wet, you’ll need to work more on a branch by branch basis.  This is the snow that will freeze hard – if it’s giving you any resistance, DO NOT beat a branch with a broom.  Foliage and branches are brittle and can snap.  This is also very true during ice storms. Once you have branches encased in ice/snow it’s a tough call to know if you are going to cause more damage than is already being done.  If a tree is bent double, I usually go ahead and release it, but you’d be surprised by how resilient some of these guys are.

And always, work safely.  Don’t climb to the top of a shaky ladder with a broom in your hand, or stand under a massive tree covered in wet, heavy snow.  Accidents happen all the time in situations like this and you don’t need to end your days at the top of the Darwin Awards this year.

[For more information on the effects of ice, snow, wind (and surprisingly, early morning sun) on the winter garden – please check out my article in the FNP.]