Well, here it is the end of February and we are still dealing with snow and ice! Not that we don’t see snow and ice in February, it’s just that we’ve seen so much of it this year. Here in the far south part of the Kansas City area, we received ice to worry about instead of snow. Ice, particularly if it comes in large amounts, can be quite damaging to plants and there is very little we can do about it. Trying to remove ice from our favorite plants usually causes more damage to branches, stems, etc. than if we just leave the plants alone and let the ice melt naturally. Our deciduous trees (unless they are inherently weak varieties) can usually handle small to moderate amounts of ice, but conifers like pines and spruce, and broadleaf evergreens like hollies and magnolias, can be severely damaged in ice storms because of the large amount of leaf surface to be covered and the attendant weight that stresses branches. In rare instances, we have removed ice from prized evergreens by spraying them with slightly warmed water, but this only works if temperatures are near or above freezing, and excess water is carefully removed from branches.
Although severe ice storms can damage even the strongest trees, relatively minor accumulations of ice can wreak havoc with weak wooded trees. As landscape designers and horticulturalists, we preach the benefits of hardwood trees and warn of the woes of softwooded or structurally weak trees so our clients are spared the expense and heartache of seeing their landscapes damaged. The pictures shown here are of a willow, almost always a poor choice except in the largest yards, and a silver maple, one of the worst culprits when it comes to storm damage. Silver maples can be especially troubling because their potentially enormous size can often mean major damage to homes, cars, people, etc. This latest ice event was quite minor, and yet the pictures show significant damage to these species.
Pictured also is a Limber Pine, widely planted as ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramidal’ being true to its name. Despite the extra weight of the ice, this flexible tree fares just fine. Unfortunately, the pictured ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ Magnolia, shows fairly significant damage from the ice. It illustrates what can happen to broadleaved evergreen trees in the northern limits of their natural growing range. ‘Bracken’s’ is an excellent tree, and we use it routinely in landscape designs, but this week’s weather reminds us as designers that using trees like this should be tempered with the knowledge that we are “pushing the limits” of where they should be planted.
Finally, THINK SPRING! And call us for recommendations on some great, durable trees!!