Extension agent: No use crying over split trees

04/13/2013 7:34 AM

04/13/2013 7:35 AM

After an ice storm earlier this week took out some of Wichita’s weaker-branched and blooming trees, extension agent Bob Neier said he became a sort of grief counselor, taking phone calls from distraught homeowners. Some were crying.

Neier said that willows can be expected to survive around five to eight years around here; Bradford pears maybe 15 to 25 years.

“They’re nice, temporary trees,” he said.

Bradford pears can be trained to have wide branching angles that are less susceptible to breaking up, but “no one does it,” he said. Other ornamental pears are better, such as Aristocrat, but it’s still not really long-lived, he said.

While some damaged trees are not able to be saved, Neier advises pruning others, and giving other trees some time to see how they may recover.

For single limbs that are broken, cut the branch back to the next main branch, either flush or with a bit of a collar. If cutting back to the trunk, do not cut flush with the trunk but rather at the collar between the branch and the trunk. If a branch is torn out of the trunk, shoots eventually will fill in, but the tree will be weakened, and the next storm will take more of it out, Neier said.

“It keeps declining.”

Neier said homeowners need to evaluate a tree to see whether it’s structurally strong. If it could hurt someone by falling, take the tree out, he said. Otherwise, “you may get five, 10 years out of it.”

For evergreens that were bowed over, give them time to recover, into midsummer. If they’re close to straightening up, new growth will help them look close to normal, Neier said. He does not recommend staking.

If a juniper is bent way over and does not straighten up enough, cut it at the bend, Neier said. If just one part of the juniper bends to one side, he suggests taking fabric or pantyhose and tying the bent part to the upright top of the evergreen, or nipping the shrub off at the bend.

Botanica didn’t have much damage from the storm, landscape supervisor Pat McKernan said. The big willow over the pond had some limb breakage on one side, but the tree “will be all right. It will just be a little more open on that side,” McKernan said. The other main damage was the loss of a big branch off a river birch. River birch is another weak-branched tree.

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