Damage from PA’s Seemingly Endless Winter!

I realize it’s been a while since I posted something on this blog. I have a bunch of ideas that are ruminating at this time but I think the thing that’s kept me away from the keyboard is this endless winter! While I’ve started a few seeds, I still can’t get into spring mode – the piles of snow and the cold weather are getting to me.

This week I was finally able to wander through the yard and see what kind of damage this winter has brought to the yard and garden.

Weeping Willow Damage

Weeping Willow Damage

The first thing I noticed was obvious from the day it happened but when I got close, I could see how bad the damage is. We had a bad ice storm a month ago. Trees and power lines were knocked down and a lot of people were without power for days. Fortunately I didn’t lose power and most of the trees and bushes weathered the storm. But one tree took a beating. The weeping willow in the back part of the yard is a mess. While there aren’t a lot of branches on the ground, many of the branches of the tree are split and cracked. Once the weather warms, I’m going to be spending some time on a ladder with a saw to clean it up.

It didn’t surprise me that the willow was damaged by the freezing rain. Willows grow fast and their wood is very soft. The weight of the ice was just too much for many of the branches. The good news is that the tree’s still fine even if it has lost a quarter to a third of its branches.

Pear Tree with Rabbit Damage

Pear Tree with Rabbit Damage

What might not be as fine are the two asian pear trees. They’ve been growing for a number of years and were doing well. I put some chicken wire around the base of the trucks to protect them from rabbits chewing on the bark. The wire worked until this year. This winter the snow was so deep and stayed for so long that it allowed the rabbits to gnaw on the pears’ trunks.

The only part of a tree trunk that’s alive is the outer ring just beneath the bark. This area contains the cambium layer which allows the truck to expand. Also the tree’s phloem is located under the bark and it transports nutrients created in the leaves down to the roots. If these tissues are too damaged, the tree won’t be able to grow, the roots will starve and the tree will die. I don’t know if the rabbit damage is lethal or not… only time will tell. If the pears do survive, I’ll be wrapping the trunks in chicken wire next fall!

Burning Bushes with Rabbit Damage

Burning Bushes with Rabbit Damage

The other plant that the rabbits took a liking to this winter was the burning bushes (Euonymus alatus). The branches of these bushes are all chewed up and uneven. But this damage doesn’t have me too concerned. Burning bushes are basically weeds (some states such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire have outlawed them because of their invasive tendencies). In the spring I’ll trim them back and they’ll be fine. Also, given all of the rabbit dropping that surround them, they’ll have a nice shot of fertilizer to aid in their recovery!

It’s been a winter here in PA and there’s more snow on the way today. There’s a lot of damage in the yard to clean up when the weather warms. But after this winter, it’ll be enjoyable to just be outside, even if it is to cut bushes and trim storm-damaged trees.

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