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September 16, 2014

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Experts advise on how to tend to snow-damaged trees

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News

A broken tree branch lays on the snow-covered grass in front of a home on Arpeggio Avenue, near Rossini Street in Anthem Thursday afternoon.

After the snow

Ed Owens, left on grader, cleared the way to Anthem. Also on the machine is Clint Hall. At bottom, from left, are fellow city workers Darwin Barton, Ryan Minehan, Kurt Launch slideshow »

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While the recent snow may have made for beautiful scenery while it was falling, in many areas of the Las Vegas Valley the sun's drying rays revealed an aftermath of broken and bent tree branches and sickly looking palm trees and shrubs.

Experts agree that if your yard is playing host to any of those snow-related plant problems, it's best not to overreact or get crazy with the pruning shears.

Bob Morris, a horticultural specialist for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Southern Area, which is in Silverado, offered some advice for removing broken tree limbs.

"What you'll do is remove them back to their point of attachment at the tree trunk or at a major limb," Morris said.

He said no stub should be left and that it is not necessary to put paint or anything else over the newly exposed wood.

Morris said it is, however, very important to take the precaution of sterilizing the instrument used to do the cutting to prevent the spread of disease.

"Just like any surgeon or doctor wouldn't consider using an unsterilized piece of equipment, you have to have the same attitude when you cut into the live tissue of plants," he said.

For bent branches, Morris said not to expect them to spring back and suggested that people don't try to prop them up.

Light will now shine on the places that were previously shaded and new growth will occur and fill up the canopy, he said.

As for palm trees that suffered through the snow storm, Frank Rauscher, public relations manager and a staff horticulturists for Star Nursery, said it's best to wait for hot weather before trimming them, unless a frond is dead.

Rauscher said if a frond is trimmed prior to it being completely dead, then nutrition that was stored in it will be lost from the tree.

"That nutrition can be really important to the tree as it tries to make it through winter," he said.

Patience is also extremely important when it comes to dealing with cold-damage foliage on shrubs.

"Don't prune it," Rauscher said.

Pruning can stimulate new growth, he said. And that new growth will be vulnerable to the cold and that will add additional stress to the plant.

Also, Rauscher said, don't jump the gun and assume a plant is dead.

"Scratch the branch, if it is green underneath it is alive," he said. "The ones that are dead, you won't be able to scratch the bark off. It's like it gets bark rigor mortis," he said with a laugh.

For any future extreme cold, Rauscher suggests putting mulch around the root system of plants.

Morris on the other hand, said for plants that are generally tolerant of cold temperatures, there is nothing that needs to be done.

But for plants such as citrus, bougainvillea and some types of sensitive palm trees, just throwing a blanket or some type of cover over the plant will be sufficient, he said.

"Some people have also used Christmas lights to give off a little bit of heat," he said.

Lastly, Rauscher said people should also be mindful of the system that provides water to their plants.

Any exposed piping may be susceptible to freezing and breaking in extreme cold weather, he said.

He recommended wrapping exposed pipes in an insulated material.

Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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