When winter storms come and pile on heavy snow and ice, it can spell disaster for some trees, especially evergreens, which have needles that hold a lot of snow and ice.
Evergreens with a strong main trunk, like pines, are best suited to weather this type of weather. But evergreens that grow with many little trunks or upward-facing branches, like cedars (their latin name is thuja), can have a really tough time. Get enough snow and/or ice on them and their branches will bend way over, leaving big open gaps, sometimes even breaking off the branches. Even if the branches aren’t broken, they’re often bent or suffer micro-cracks, so that they never stand properly upright again, even once the snow and ice is gone.
There’s a fast and easy way to prevent this, and, as a bonus, it doesn’t make your garden look like a burlap graveyard (I’m not a fan of wrapping evergreens in burlap in winter, unless it’s for the first year as they get established). All you have to do is take a minute before snowstorm season to wind some twine around and up the trees to secure the branches. I made a short video to show you how it’s done:
In the video I used brown sisal twine, mostly because that’s what I had on hand, but also because it would show up in the pictures.
You can get sisal that’s been dyed green, if the look of the brown bothers you, but once it’s installed it doesn’t really show up unless you’re looking for it. Because this is temporary, you could really use any kind of string you have (even synthentic types), as long as it’s strong enough not to break apart when it gets wet.
In this photo, I’ve wrapped just the middle cedar tree with twine:
It looks slimmer, but that’s about the only difference between it and it’s neighbours.
In this picture, I’ve finished wrapping all three trees:
NOTE: The one thing to remember if you tie up your cedars in the fall is to untie them in the spring. If you don’t, light won’t get into all the areas it should, photosynthesis can’t happen, you’ll end up with a lot of brown and crispy where you should have green and pliable.
If you have an evergreen hedge, prune it so that it’s narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. This helps to prevent snow from accumulating on top. Less snow sits on top of a triangle than a square.