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The winter landscape can be beautiful. Tree branches frosted with white snow or encased in glittery ice jewelry are dazzling. But what you don’t see, as you sip hot coffee from your “World’s Best Boss” mug and gaze out the window, is winter damage to plants in your commercial landscaping.

Until spring.

Then, it can be alarmingly obvious. Broken tree branches. Faded evergreen foliage. Plants heaved out of the frozen ground. Bark nibbled by hungry critters.

This isn’t the scene you want your tenants and visitors to see. You know how important well-tended landscaping is to your company’s image. You need winter’s mess cleaned up before it mars your reputation.

Let’s take a look at six signs of winter damage to plants in commercial landscaping, and how to repair it.

Discolored Evergreen Needles

Winter burn is a type of winter damage to plants that causes evergreen needles to turn dry and brown.You might think evergreens are so hardy that snow and freezing temperatures wouldn’t bother them. Nope.

When the winter sun comes out and the wind blows, foliage can quickly lose water. Since their roots are frozen in the soil, plants can’t replace the water that’s been lost. This causes the needles to turn dry and brown. We call this winter burn.

An occasional bright sunny day can cause problems, too. The sun warms up the plant, so the cells become active again. Then, bam! When the temperature inevitably drops, foliage is damaged or killed. This causes a bleached look.

How To Treat Winter Burn On Evergreens

Prune out the injured foliage in mid-spring. It’s important not to do it any earlier than that, because the old foliage helps protect the rest of the plant. If the foliage is brown, it’s probably dead. Prune it back to a living part of the shrub.

Injured plants need regular watering throughout the spring and a good dose of fertilizer once the threat of frost has passed.

Frost Heave

Alternating freeze and thaw cycles can lift plants and surrounding soil up and out of the ground, leaving roots exposed to damaging wind, cold and sun.

How To Treat Frost Heave In A Landscape

If plants are dead, you’ll need to replace them. If a small tree or shrub is uprooted, you can right it and secure it with stakes and wires. Just make sure there’s at least one third to half of the root ball intact.

Chewed Tree Bark

Tree bark damage is a type of winter damage caused by deer and other critters.While you were in a staff meeting munching bagels and talking sales figures, some of nature’s furry critters might have snacked on your landscape’s tree bark.

Deer, mice, rabbits and other animals gnaw bark when other food becomes scarce.

Missing bark from close to the ground to as high as four feet up are signs of critter nibbling, You can also see their tooth marks if you feel like looking up close.

Voles and rabbits have incisors on the top and bottom and chew low to the ground. Look for chewing marks at ground level or slightly above.

Deer can stand on their hind feet and reach over 4 feet high if they’re really hungry. They remove bark, twigs, and buds with a diagonal slice, as they have only lower teeth.

What To Do About Winter Animal Damage

If the tree bark damage goes less than 25 percent of the way around the tree, the tree should survive without a problem.

If the damage involves from 25 percent to 50 percent of the bark, the tree could lose some leaves and branches, but should still rebound.

But if animals have removed more than 50 percent of the bark, you should call a tree care professional to help you repair the damage.

Frost-Cracked Tree Bark

Hungry critters aren’t the only threat to your landscaping’s tree bark during the winter.

A sudden sharp drop in temperature between daytime and night can freeze water lurking in the craggy trunk of a tree. This “frost cracking” can cause the tree to split open.

Wait And See With Frost Cracking

If the damage isn’t too bad, the crack may close when the weather warms up. If this happens with shrubs, it’s called bark split. The cracks will often close up on their own.

Brown Or Black Plants

Blackened foliage is a type of winter damage to plants that occurs on late season new growth exposed to freezing temps.Sometimes new plant growth in early fall is unable to adjust before the temperature plunges or unexpected ice storms blow in.

Frozen foliage turns an ugly brown or black. This can also happen if your landscape gets an unexpected warm spell, luring plants out of dormancy, then a frost or freeze zaps them.

How To Handle Discolored Plants

Damaged leaves and flowers may drop by themselves in the spring, or you can snip off damaged portions to encourage new growth.

Most plants will rebound if they haven’t been injured too severely. But wait until the threat of low temperatures has passed before you start snipping.

Broken Tree Branches

Bare deciduous tree branches are the most vulnerable to the weight of ice, which can cause them to break off. It’s tempting to knock heavy snow or ice off shrubs or tree limbs but don’t. When they’re frozen, they’re fragile and could break.

How To Address Broken Branches

Unless it seems hazardous, wait until the end of winter to remove broken branches. Then, prune all broken twigs and branches back to within one-quarter inch above a live bud or to the branch collar of the nearest live branch.

This will reshape the plant and stimulate new growth in the spring.

A quick note about prevention: Keep trees healthy throughout the year with proper fertilization, which beefs up branch strength. Proper pruning before winter helps, too, to remove any branches that overhang power lines, sidewalks or structures.

Let Neave Repair The Winter Damage In Your Commercial Landscape

Broken tree branches is a type of winter damage to plants.At Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, we know you want your commercial property’s landscaping to be beautiful, tidy and impressive. Potential customers get their first impression of your business when they see it from the outside.

We pride ourselves on the best commercial property landscape management in the industry.

Our expertise spans more than 40 years. Our professionally trained staff knows all the signs of winter landscape damage and the steps to take to get your property cleaned up and healthy for the new growing season.

But we don’t stop there. Our wide array of comprehensive services includes lawn maintenance, property enhancements, pruning, and snow removal.

Our professionals are always adding new landscape maintenance techniques and procedures to their expanse of knowledge because our training is ongoing.

Your commercial property deserves the very best care. That comes from Neave.

If you’re in the Hudson Valley, call us at (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, call (914) 271-7996; from Connecticut, dial (203) 212-4800. Or, fill out our simple web form, and we’ll contact you about setting up your free consultation.



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Images: Deer damaged trees, Frost damaged plant, Broken branches

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I have used Neave Group Outdoor Solutions and Christmas Décor services for the past four years to maintain and decorate our home in Scarsdale, NY. I have no hesitation in recommending them as a company with which to do business.Kathy Neave was our project designer. I am quite comfortable in vouching for her as a talented and professional individual. Her design ideas were elegant and appropriate. She was on time for her appointment and helped me to envision her ideas. Kathy and her team sche…
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