Cornell Cooperative Extension

March 17, 2014

Check your landscape for winter damage

If you are brave enough to go out into the cold, slippery environs these days, it’s a good time to take a look at your shrubs and trees.

The ice, high winds and freezing temperatures we’ve had may have done damage to your landscape.

Before the trees and shrubs begin to leaf out, and they eventually will, take a good look at them. Broken branches, cracked bark and rabbit or vole (meadow mice) damage can be seen much easier when there are no leaves to obscure your vision.

Rabbit or vole damage will appear as bark stripped from the tree trunk or trunk and branches of shrubs. Where branches have been nipped off, the ends will appear as clean cuts, as though they have been pruned.

The critters strip and eat this bark to keep themselves alive when no other food is available. On my burning bush, the bark is stripped a foot and a half from the ground, as that was the snow level when the rabbits discovered my plant. As the snow melted, more bark was revealed to them. You get the picture, and it’s not pretty.

A type of damage you may see is desiccation of your evergreens, caused by the needles losing water through transpiration faster than it can be replaced by the roots in frozen ground.

Wind rapidly increases the speed of desiccation, and we’ve had plenty of that. I have a dwarf spruce near the front porch of our house that is looking poor. The needles on the south side of the spruce, which gets the most sun, are brown and dry-looking. 

Not only is this spruce buffeted by winds, the sun also speeds the loss of water and reflects off the snow or walkway right next to the spruce. Poor thing. It remains to be seen how it does in the spring when it breaks dormancy and begins to put out new growth.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension