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Tips for Taking Care of Snow Storm Tree Damage

Heavy wet snow blankets trees outside the KUNC Studio on Oct 26th. The 1st snowstorm of the year damaged trees all throughout the front range.
Heavy wet snow blankets trees outside the KUNC Studio on Oct 26th. The 1st snowstorm of the year damaged trees all throughout the front range.

Northern Colorado took the brunt of this week’s snow storm and tree damage. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton has these clean-up and pruning tips.

What a storm. We got a bunch of much needed moisture, a bunch of shoveling exercise and a bunch of broken trees.

Before doing too much cutting, take time to assess the damage. Sometimes right after the storm trees look their worst.  Plants are resilient.  Prune only the major damage first then step back.

Along the Front Range, some trees were still holding onto their leaves. In older neighborhoods the elm, oak and some maples are the worst damaged. Some have major broken branches.  Others are splayed open and split down the middle.

Soft wooded silver maple and cottonwood also took a beating. I’ve even seen a few trees that were uprooted.  Urban foresters and arborists are going to be busy for a while.

Contact a certified arborist or your utility company if any plant in your landscape is interfering with utility lines. Don’t attempt to clear the line on your own.  Saving a few bucks or a little time isn’t worth getting fried or causing more damage.

A clean cut is better than a splintered wound.  If a tree has lost its top a clean, angled cut will benefit the plant. Cut any branches back to the branch collar.  The collar is a ridge of bark where the branch meets the main trunk. Don’t cut into the collar. It has healing enzymes. Cut out along the branch at least an quarter of an inch or so from the trunk.

Branches that have broken and stripped down the trunk are the hardest to deal with. The best that can be done is to cut the stripped bark at the bottom of the wound. If it was a large branch and a lot of the trunk is damaged it could be fatal for the tree.

If you have questions, if the plant is overwhelming and large, or if there are any potential hazards, call a certified arborist. Certified arborists know what is best for the plant. They will prune or remove the plants safely. They are going to be busy but a certified arborist will get the job done correctly.

I also noticed that trees that have been regularly pruned and maintain were the least damaged. Proactive, preventative maintenance is the best solution to our next branch-breaker snowstorm. We can always use the moisture. It’s unfortunate the moisture came at the expense of some wonderful, large, old trees.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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