Survival of the Fittest

We’ve been slammed by relentless
winter storms in the Northeast this year. 
I lost power for 5 full days, but thankfully my tall trees remained standing.  Only a few branches fell on my property under
the weight of ½ inch of ice.  I fared
much better than many as evidenced by the massive loss of power that impacted
over 700,000 homes in the Philadelphia area.

In my neighborhood, I saw fallen
trees on fences, power lines and across driveways.  I felt helpless as I saw the large branches
of my neighbor’s white pine crash down on their snow-covered lawn.  Despite this chaos, I found myself
grateful.  Grateful for my tree guy Chris
who maintains my trees by keeping them limbed up and by cutting out the dead
wood.  Thankful for the knowledge that
enabled me to select trees and plants that can best endure the snow and ice,
which brings me to the topic of today’s blog…..survival of the fittest. 

There are a number of trees and
shrubs that handle ice fairly well.  One
of my favorites is the Thuja ‘Green Giant.’  In fact, there isn’t anything I don’t like
about this tree.  It’s a perfect,
evergreen screen growing 3-5 feet a year and staying narrow (about 8-10 feet)
at maturity.  It’s also deer resistant
and yes, ice tolerant.  As I observed my
Thujas bowing gracefully under the weight of the ice, I couldn’t help but think
of one of my favorite childhood toys:  Bozo
the Clown Big Bop Bag.  For those of you
too young to know what that is, it’s a punching bag that looks like a clown
that you just can’t knock down.  The
Green Giants are like that.  They might
bend, but they won’t break, and once the ice melts, they stand back up. 

I also have to tip my hat
to my Witch Hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’). Not only did it
hold up under the ice, but it’s blooming right now and that’s a welcome respite
to the cold, gray days we’ve been experiencing in the Northeast!

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ in bloom

My Mahonia bealei also fared better than
expected.  Dare I say, it even looked
pretty coated in ice. 

Mahonia bealei

And I couldn’t help but snap this
photo of a robin, the proverbial bird of spring, perched on the frozen branches
of my dogwood tree. Perhaps as a sign that spring will come….eventually.

Robin – A Sign of Spring?
In contrast, there are a few plants
that I wouldn’t recommend if you live in areas prone to ice and snow.  The first is the Arborvitae.  It tends to splay open when burdened with ice
and often doesn’t fully recover.  Another
is the Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). 
While a native tree, it’s typically unable to bear the weight of ice
collecting on the needles and is prone to limb breakage and damage.  Of course, the greater surface area of
evergreens makes them more susceptible to ice damage than deciduous trees.

I guess I’d better stop
writing now as we are gearing up for yet another winter storm and I want to get
this posted before I lose power and my internet connection!  According to the weather report, this one
includes three different types of precipitation:  snow, sleet and freezing rain with expected
accumulations of up to 1 foot.  Don’t be
surprised if my next post features the plants of the southwest.  I might become a snowbird sooner than


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