Home & Garden

Weeping over your snow-clobbered willow? Here’s how to lessen storm damage to trees

As snow continues to melt across the Puget Sound region, homeowners are finding landscaping crushed by the weight of wet snow.

On Thursday, Dan Folk tackled a collapsed weeping willow.

“This thing was probably 100 years old,” said Folk, the owner of Apex Tree Experts. “It had a lot of dead wood in the interior.”

A large branch had snapped off the willow, making it unbalanced.

“The whole thing went the other way and uprooted, along with irrigation, septic drain field and a storm drain line that all came up with it,” Folk said.

Much of the damage to area trees occurred after rain began to soak snow, increasing its weight.

Across the region, wet snow collapsed carports, marinas, even the roof of a Verizon store in Lacey.

Folk recommends shaking or knocking snow off tree branches before rain comes. For homeowners, that time has passed.

“The damage has been done at this point,” Folk said.

Once all of the snow has melted, homeowners can evaluate damage to trees and bushes.

It’s important to know what you can take on and what needs a professional, said Michah Glastetter, owner of Ranger Tree Experts of Lakewood.

“You don’t want to mess with dangling limbs with a ladder and a chainsaw,” Glastetter said.

For smaller jobs, Glastetter suggests cutting out broken and split limbs and branches.

“Cut it at a place that respects the tree’s anatomy,” he said. “Don’t cut flush to the trunk.”

Instead, leave the branch’s growth collar on the trunk.

If a branch is still hanging from a trunk, make a first cut to reduce the weight.

“Then you go back and make a clean-up cut,” Glastetter said.

He suggested a sharp pruning saw and strongly dissuaded the use of tree tar or sealants.

“The tree will do its own decent job of compartmentalizing,” he said. “The most important thing is to clean up those breaks.”

Folk recommends having trees evaluated before the next snow or windstorm hits. Arborists will look for rot and potential failures in trees.

At Lakewood’s Lakewold Gardens, at least two trees fell during the storm and its aftermath, staff said. Another 30 shrubs were flattened by snow.

Lead horticulturist Kristine Dillinger echoed Folk’s advice on preventative measures.

“People should utilize their consulting arborist on a regular basis and have their trees looked at periodically,” Dillinger said.

Homeowners who discover shrubs and even some trees that are weighted down by snow need not panic, she said.

“A lot of plant material that is currently bent to the ground with snow weight will pop back up over time,” Dillinger said.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.