Save the tree or replace it?
Snow damaged trees and your landscape restoration
The unusual heavy snowfall in Northern Virginia has brought a large amount of casualties of bent-over and broken trees. The trees in this region are ill-equipped to handle the stress of heavy snowfall and, as a result, many of them have suffered in various ways. Many have broken limbs. Some have toppled over completely. Others have bent to a low posture leaving us to wonder if they might stand up again.
The question most asked of arborists this season has been "can you save it?" The answer is dependent, of course, on the situation. There is a solution for every problem. This one, like most, is answered in terms of economics. When considering the fate of a damaged tree on your property, you should ask yourself how much that particular tree means to you. Its value may be sentimental, planted as a memorial or celebration. Or its value may be strictly utilitarian; it hides the view of my neighbor's unfortunate pension for Canadian hockey and antique tractors.
If the value of the tree is nostalgic, sentimental, or otherwise tied to your human emotions, you should consider it to be a patient in a critical-care situation. Ask your arborist what means are available to rescue the tree from this situation.
But if the tree itself means nothing to you other than the service that it provides to your property, then you should consider replacing it with a specimen that better serves this purpose.
The most typical example of this situation has been rows of Leland Cypress trees planted to separate one back yard from another. Snowfall has left some of these trees bent over, broken, and completely amiss of their purpose. Unless there is some sentimental (human emotional) connection to these trees, they should be removed and replaced with better specimens.
There are better ways to plant trees that will lead to a better result to your property in the long run. Good root depth and a proper canopy structure can be encouraged and supported if the right practices are followed from the start. Consult an arborist to make this happen.
If the tree in question does have sentimental value to you, you should make sure that the intervention is helpful to the tree. Some cabling, bracing, and staking practices are not helpful to trees and can simply lead to bigger problems in the future. When rescuing a tree you should know the science behind the treatment. Ask your arborist to explain his methods, and then check them with the ISA.
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