Assessing the Situation

Assessing the Situation

This is that time of year when the first hints of sunlight and slightly warmer weather make me want to get outside and get busy in my garden. In other words, I get the gardening bug. And as the days get longer I watch the plants emerge from the sleeping soil and am dying to get my hands dirty.

So this morning before heading to work, I took a walk around my yard to assess what affect winter had on my landscape. My arborvitaes were nice and green - ready to offer me privacy once more on my backyard patio. My blue spruces were also standing strong - seemingly unaffected from all the heavy snow their branches supported this winter. (What a beautiful scene they created out of my dining room bay window covered in the cold white stuff around the holidays!) My two English oaks, which are in my front tree lawn and are known for being relatively tolerant of the salt spray from cars and trucks, seem strong and sturdy, ready to flower and bud. And my Crimson King maples also look eager for spring - I'm looking forward to seeing their burgundy leaves emerge once again, creating a nice contrast to the lime and jade tones of the rest of my trees.

Then, I turned toward the front of my house. I have two juniper skyrockets flanking my front door. And the first thing I noticed was that the normally parallel frosty blue spikes weren't in order. The right tree stood tall, but the left was bent slightly inward toward my front door - usually not a good sign for a tree.

Healthy trees are very resilient, especially in winter when they are dormant and further injury by insects and diseases is less likely than during the growing season. But there can be incidents like severe ice and snow storms and excess salt exposure that can put pressure and weight on branches and cause some problems for your trees. While Mother Nature can't be controlled, keeping an eye out for early symptoms of ill health can help ensure trees make it through winter unscathed.

I inspect my trees once each season and especially after severe storms. While most healthy trees have full crowns (which is the area of branches and leaves that extend from the main trunk), don't let this alone fool you. Trees can be unwell and still have a lush crown. Here are some key symptoms that indicate a tree is unhealthy:

  • Dead wood appears as dry and lifeless branches that break very easily. They need to be removed quickly and properly for safety reasons.
  • Cracks are deep splits through the bark where the bark is missing.
  • Weak branch unions are areas where branches are not securely attached to a tree.
  • Trees show decay from the inside out, so this is difficult to notice initially. Soft, crumbly wood is a good indicator of decay.
  • An uneven growth pattern, where the tree is lopsided or leaning in one direction, is usually a result of years of damage from improper pruning or storms.

If you think your tree is in trouble, call an arborist for a consultation. They can help you diagnose your trees and offer next steps for treatment. I'm going to talk to my pals at Davey today about my skyrocket and see if my assessment is correct. Those few nasty ice storms we had this winter were probably a bit much for this juniper. But I think I'll be able to get him back in shape this spring with a little TLC.

In the meantime, do like I do and conduct regular evaluations and spring cleanups to keep your gardening bug under control until the real planting season kicks into full gear.

"Think you're a big fan of trees? We'd love to hear about it. Send your thoughts to Dave or Daphne at ."

  • kevin kennedy March 29, 2013 >Thanks for the great article. Time to take a walk around my trees.
  • Paige Hall April 5, 2010 >I do love trees, Daphne, and I loved learning about all of yours. On the property I have a number of pines, and for me, these are one of my least favorite trees, obviously because of the needles and their height. Also, I'm not sure it I'd know what to look for on my property, so I would need some professional help. Glad I found this because I don't think I would have thought to have someone come out. Thanks.
  • Sandra April 5, 2010 >Great article!
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