Understanding plants’ growth habits make cleanup decision easier

Gardens are at the mercy of Mother Nature. This winter, the deep layer of snow has provided more than enough insulation for perennials and small shrubs. Fifteen cm (six inches) of snow keeps the plants at a constant temperature regardless of the weather, so this year even the windswept areas are well protected.

Gardens are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

This winter, the deep layer of snow has provided more than enough insulation for perennials and small shrubs. Fifteen cm (six inches) of snow keeps the plants at a constant temperature regardless of the weather, so this year even the windswept areas are well protected.

Larger plants have not fared as well. Heavy, wet snow and wind has snapped and torn branches and limbs.

Understanding plants’ growth habits make cleanup decisions easier.

New growth on a spruce or pine tree develops at the ends of the branches. When ends or tops of branches are broken, it will take two years for the plant to put out new growth. If the break or cut is in an area where there are no needles, it is unlikely that new growth will appear. It is best to cut the branch back flush to the main trunk.

When a spruce or pine loses its top, one or more upper branched will slowly move upwards to take the place of the lost leader. The process can be helped by choosing one of the top branches and tying it to a stick to keep the branch upright. In a couple of years, the support can be removed as the branch will have developed into the leader.

Hardy deciduous plants are more resilient. They will continue to grow as long as they have a good root system.

When a living deciduous tree is cut down, new shoots will grow from the base or roots. If a large branch is removed, the plant will send out a tremendous amount of new growth in that same area attempting to produce enough vegetation to balance the intake from the roots. This type of growth is called water sprouts as they are long and skinny with no side branches. Removing the majority of the sprouts as they develop will help the plant form a better shape but is an ongoing process.

Start cleaning up damaged plants by removing the broken bits and assessing the damage. How much of the plant is left? Is the plant healthy? Is it safe? Is it pleasing to the eye? How important is the tree to the landscape?

The rule of thumb is to never remove more than a quarter of a plant in one season. If a larger amount of the plant has to be removed, think about removing the plant.

Examine the plant to see if the wood is healthy. Is there any rot? Does sap ooze from the bark? Are there sunken areas in the bark? A yes answer to any of these questions means that the plant is not healthy and could become a safety hazard.

Safety is a big issue. A weak or rotten tree or branch can do damage when it falls. A sudden bump forming from under the ground within a few feet of a tree can be a sign that an anchor root has broken, leaving the plant susceptible to the next strong wind. When this is the case, it is time to remove the tree.

Once the broken pieces are removed, look at the shape of the plant. If it is attractive or functional, it is time to remove jagged branches. Cut broken branched back to the next branch. A smooth cut will heal faster than a rough one. Stubs rarely heal over.

When a plant is not attractive but functional, it can be left and a new plant added to the same area in the spring. Once the new plant is established, remove the old one.

As the snow melts, keep an eye on the trees and shrubs, cleaning up broken plants as they become assessable.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com.

Just Posted

Unemployment rate and EI beneficiaries down in Central Alberta

The unemployment rate for Red Deer region and the number of people… Continue reading

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month