This enormous snow has flattened my ornamental grasses and buried some of my small evergreens and they are bent over like horseshoes. Should I try to dig the grasses out or pull the trees up?
The grasses are a non-issue. The tops were dead with the first killing frost. They can be cut off in the spring whether they are vertical or horizontal. Right now, they just make good insulation for the crowns or where the top meets the root and where next year’s grasses begin.
The problems are the evergreens that certainly are not “lucky horseshoes” in their current state. The bitter cold is going to make it very easy to tear needles off if you handle them. Try carefully to loosen snow around them. Do this in the middle of the day so it’s about as warm as it is going to get. If the little evergreens pop up by themselves, it’s great. If they do not, try to gently straighten one. If it won’t, leave it alone.
If it does stay up, that’s good. If it is straightened but returns to a bent position, you may have to try using a lightweight stick as a splint and tie it to the side of the trunk. Bamboo is perfect because it is light and strong. Do this now or in the very early spring. You don’t want them doing any growing while they are kissing the ground.
We have a large tree in our yard and I have noticed that for the last couple of years, it has been having something strange going on. It has two trunks growing close together, starting almost at the ground, and is probably fifty feet tall. The smaller trunk is getting yellow-green leaves with brown edges starting in the middle of the summer. The other trunk looks fine. Why is one good and the other bad? They are growing from the same trunk.
Competition isn’t always good for you, or as in this case, the tree.
Long ago, the tree began growing with a single leader. Something unfortunate happened. The tree had the leader broken or eaten. The tree responded by sending up shoots from two buds and each developed into a separate tree attached to the original single trunk. Each year, the Siamese twins grew taller and bigger around. After some period of time, the trunks began pressing on each other. And each year, the pressure increased on the portion of the trunks that face each other.
The continued and increasing pressure eventually affects the cambium layer under the bark. That’s the thin layer that transports moisture and soil nutrients up the tree and produced food down to the roots. It’s the railway system of life for a tree. The smaller of the two trunks has obviously been getting the worst of it for some time. That’s why it is smaller.
At some point, there was enough blockage, that during periods of hot weather or drought, the little guy began displaying drought damage. The yellowing leaves with brown, crispy edges indicate that very little water or nutrients are making it up to Leafland. The hot or dry conditions are creating a larger demand than the squished trunk can fulfill. The prognosis is poor.
Eventually, Shrimpy will be so compromised it will die. But you may want to have the smaller trunk removed in the near future before it does too much damage to Hefty. Shrimpy still has the ability to take out Hefty. The pressure is affecting them both but only one is in big trouble currently. You’ll have to decide if half of a tree may be better than none.
Unlike human Siamese twins, one can live successfully without the other. It’s just going to look like half a tree.
Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.