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Volume xviii, Issue 14 ~ Apri 8 to April 14, 2010

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Bay Gardener

by Dr. Francis Gouin

Repairing Winter’s Damage to Coniferous Trees and Shrubs

The silver lining: you may get to start fresh

Pine, spruce, hemlock, fir, arborvitae, chamaecyparis (false cypress) and juniper trees and shrubs are at risk after this past winter’s damage.

If the top of the tree has been broken, it will not generate a new leader unless you take a young lateral branch near the top and force it upright by staking and tying.

If the damage to the bark of the tree is severe, which often occurs when branches tear from the trunk, there is a good possibility that the wound will become infected. Trunk wounds to coniferous trees are deadly, even when cared for properly. To try to save a tree with a trunk wound, clean the edges of the mound with a sharp knife or chisel and remove all loose bark and wood. Next, trim the bark at the top and bottom of the wound to a point instead of leaving it rounded or flat. This encourages rapid formation of callus tissue.

If limbs are damaged, pruning may or may not be restorative. If you prune these species to a point on the branch or stem where there are no longer any needles, you will essentially kill the tree or shrub.

The Good News

Yews and redwoods are the only coniferous trees that can regenerate new branches. Yews produce thousands of vegetative buds that remain latent in the bark as the plant grows. These latent buds will be forced into growth soon after the ends of branches have been removed.

Juniper shrubs that have been severely damaged by snow and ice can be pruned back to a healthy, undamaged side branch. In time, new growth from the side branch will occupy the open space, but it may take several years.

This is the year to survey the scene and ask what you’ve got to lose. I advise pruning the heck out of the damaged branches — or replacing the plant with a more desirable species.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.


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