Columnist: Removing snow from vegetation is delicate process

Winter weather is great for a lot of fun outdoor activities. The cold temperatures have allowed for the McElhattan outdoor ice arena to open for hockey and ice skating. If we can get a couple inches of snow, the nearby hills will be ready for sleds and toboggans.

I also have spoken to a few families who have gotten in winter hikes the past week to view the wildlife and seek solitude.

Winter weather and the time of year also can lead to some yard work. While waking up to a fresh snow can be beautiful, it can cause some damage to evergreen shrubs.

Some shrubs handle the weight just fine, but I have seen damage in junipers and arborvitaes. These plants hold their foliage throughout the winter and it also can trap falling snow.

Light fluffy snow is not much of a problem, but heavy, wet snow can result in broken branches.

In most cases, it may be best to just let nature take its course and let it slowly melt away as temperatures warm up.

But there are times (such as heavy, wet snow) when it is best to remove the snow before major damage follows.

Removing snow is a delicate operation. Too much shaking of the limbs can cause the limbs to break off.

Gently brush off the snow with a broom to alleviate the excess weight.

Never try to remove ice from a plant as there is just not a safe way to remove the weight without injuring the plants.

Rabbits may not be into ice skating or sledding but can be seen about in the winter months. Most likely they are looking for food.

This is a good time to walk around the landscape and observe any feeding damage on your woody ornamentals. Three things to look for to clue you in on this visitor are:

Branches clipped off at a clean, 45-degree angle;

  • Chewed-off bark; and
  • Rabbit droppings underneath the shrub.

The damage may appear at ground level but, at times, as much as 2 to 3 feet off the ground. Rabbits are adept at walking above the snow line and deep snows simply elevate them higher on the shrub.

Noticing which landscape plants are fed upon this winter will allow you to plan for next year. Chicken wire around the base will create a physical barrier that a rabbit cannot penetrate. Rabbit repellent products also can be used but show mixed results on effectiveness.