Trees vs The Winter

Trees vs The Winter

Wisconsin is known for its harsh winter climate causing damage to trees and shrubs planted in the landscape. Extreme cold temperatures, high winds and winter sun can zap the moisture out of evergreens and damage exposed bark. It can even injure or kill branches, flowerbeds and roots. Heavy snow and ice loads can cause branches to fail and entire trees to fall. Salt used on sidewalks and parking lots can cause damage during the winter and continue to damage trees and shrubs well into the next season. Rodents and other small animals are always looking for an easy meal when times are tough. Winter weather can force them to feed on bark, twigs, flowerbeds and foliage. This feeding can cause aesthetic damage to the plant and in some cases permanent dieback or death of the plant. Winter is not all doom and gloom. There are some easy and practical solutions that can help minimize damage.


Sun scald

Sun scald is elongated, sunken, dried or cracked areas of dead bark. These areas of dead bark are usually located on the south or southwest side of trees where there is longer sun exposure. During sunny winter days, the bark can heat up causing the cambium to become active. When that sun exposure stops and the area gets very cold again, bark temperature drops very quickly and can damage the tissue where that cambium activity was taking place.


Young, newly planted and thin barked trees are especially vulnerable to sun scald. Trees with recent aggressive pruning that exposes new areas to more sunlight, or trees transplanted from shady areas to areas with more sun are also more vulnerable. Older trees with thicker bark and that are acclimated to the area can insulate dormant tissue better reducing the chance of sun scald.


Sun scald can be prevented by using a wrap on the trunk and exposed branches. Wrapping should be done for the first couple years on newly planted trees and shrubs and even longer for thin barked trees. It is important to remove the wrapping in spring. Leaving the wrapping on can damage the bark just as much as sun scald.


If your tree or shrub already has signs of sun scald, it is best to call your certified arborist at Hoppe Tree Service to schedule an assessment and see what remediation efforts can be done. These efforts include but are not limited to tracing the wound and applying fungicides.


Snow and ice damage

Heavy snow and ice can cause damage by bending and breaking branches if not entire trees or shrubs. Trees with multiple leaders are the most susceptible to this damage. These types of trees include arborvitae, juniper and multi stem birch trees. There are several ways to protect these trees. A quick and efficient means of support is using synthetic webbing to create an endless loop on the inside of the tree or shrub that would prevent lots of movement in cause of heavy snow or ice. This type of system needs to be installed correctly to prevent girdling and checked on an annual basis to make sure the proper amount of support is being given. More permanent support systems can be installed with metal hardware and cable. These systems should be designed and installed by your certified arborist.


Animal damage

Animal damage includes mice, rabbits and deer. They can girdle trees and eat shrubs back down to the ground. Deer can use their antlers and rub through the bark of a tree in no time. There are several methods for reducing the amount of damage from these pests. The key here is to reduce; not eliminate. With these control measures we hope to reduce the amount of damage to an acceptable level.


¼ inch metal hardware cloth is great at keeping rodents away from the trunk. The cylinder should be 2-3 inches below grade and the height should be 18-24 inches above the anticipated snow line. This method works for deer as well, but the materials needed are quite a bit larger. To be effective, the fences need to be high and sturdy. There is very little that will hold back a hungry deer.


Fencing and wraps can be effective on show trees and shrubs at low numbers. This method is not very efficient for a high number of trees. Repellants can be a useful tool in reducing the amount of damage caused by these animals. These products are not poison and simply render the plant undesirable through taste or smell. Repeat applications are needed throughout the season.


Although damage to trees and shrubs during the frigid winter months in Wisconsin is common, with a little bit of care and help from Hoppe Tree Service, your plants can come out in spring looking great and can continue to be an asset to your landscape. Remember to “Make sure your trees are Hoppe!”

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