Gardening Shrubs Staking plants Trees Winter Protection

Garden Fail: Knocking Snow Off Bent Branches

If possible, just leave weighed-down branches alone. Source: Claire Tourigny, from the book Les 1500 trucs du jardinier paresseux

When snow or ice bends the branches of trees, shrubs and conifers, the best thing to do is … nothing at all!

Trying to clear snow or (especially) ice off a bent branch with a broom or shovel can do more damage than the weight of the snow/ice itself, as wood becomes brittle at temperatures below freezing. Even manually straightening the limb may cause the wood to crack.

When a thaw occurs, the branches almost always return to their original shape. And if some were to remain a bit bent, a temporary stake, added for a week or two in the spring, will usually be enough to get them back in shape.

Of course, if the weighed-down branch is blocking access to your walk or is otherwise in the way, you’ll have little choice but to try to raise it (but try a broom rather than a shovel). Otherwise, just let Ma Nature do her job!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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