By Katie Himanga, Goodhue County Master Gardener
Does your columnar arborvitae look like this photo as a result of the May 2 snowstorm?
Look closely to see if the stems are broken. Those need to be cut at the break or removed entirely. Arborvitae has some ability to re-sprout from broken stems, but only time will tell how a particular tree will respond. For stems that are bent but not broken, some will stand back up on their own. Others won’t do it on their own but can be supported with a splint for a few seasons until they regain strength. Use a long bamboo pole, wood dowel or flexible fiberglass pole. The latter are used for tents and for supporting netting in the garden. Strap the splint to the bent arborvitae stem at several points along the pole with Velcro tape or soft rags. Check the stems every few weeks throughout the summer and loosen the ties as the stem expands.
For other types of trees with broken limbs… If the tree has just one or two, it may be best to remove each broken branch entirely. Make the final cut just outside the branch collar. If there are many broken branches but the tree is otherwise safe to leave in the landscape, it’s best to cut off just the broken part of each branch. Use sharp tools but leave as much live tissue as possible on the broken stub. Healthy branches will re-sprout from dormant buds and it might be possible to do restorative pruning in future years. Plan to have a Certified Arborist work on the tree during the dormant season beginning in 2-3 years.