Nature Notes

Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.

Removing Snow from Trees and Shrubs

   Winter storms can cause a great deal of damage to the branches of trees and shrubs.  Multi-stemmed evergreens like junipers and arborvitaes are often quite susceptible.  Snow load can often weigh down the branches of these evergreens so that they are touching the ground.   

    If snow falls and evergreen branches are just lightly snow covered, it is best to let warmer temperatures melt off the snow.  If the snow load is heavy, however, try to gently knock some snow off the branches with a soft broom using an upward motion from underneath the branch.  Start at the uppermost branches and work downwards.  When a heavy snow is expected, do this at intervals throughout the storm.  There is a greater chance of preventing the snow from piling up on the branches in the first place.  Do not attempt to shake the snow off as this often damages branches.  

    It is dangerous to try to remove snow from the branches of trees or shrubs if any icing has occurred.  When lifting up a branch from underneath it is far more likely that the branch will break if icing is present.  If a branch does break, prune back the damaged limb to the main branch as soon as weather permits.   Always check after a storm to make sure there are no broken branches overhanging a path or walkway.  Be on the lookout for such safety hazards.  High winter winds often bring down damaged branches when least expected.