Snow Damaged Trees and Shrubs

What a week of crazy weather we have had here in Calgary! This morning minus 4, next week, 22 above. Welcome to gardening beneath the arch, or as it is most commonly referred to as The Chinook Zone. One thing we can always predict, is the unpredictability of the weather here in Cowtown and surrounding regions. This freak snowstorm has wrought havoc with electrical lines and caused considerable damage to many trees and shrubs. I just wanted to take a minute and talk about what you can and should do regarding any damage to your landscape. I have learned on the job just how attached owners become to their trees. I can relate as I have lost a 20 year old tree in this mess myself.

So, what to do? First take a careful inventory of damages. If you live in an area where the power lines are above ground, please make sure that the area is safe and no lines are down. Elms, poplars, and evergreens typically experience the worst damage. If there are loose and dangling branches, exercise caution walking below. Resist temptation to just tear down any dangling branches to avoid further injury to the tree. If the tree is young and you have the tools, prune judiciously, bearing in mind what the tree will look like in a couple of years. Plan your cuts as much a possible to help the tree grow back into a pleasing shape. This could take a couple of years, depending upon the damage. If your damages are extensive; broken leaders, branches that very long and heavy, requiring more than one cut, please call an arborist to assess the viability of the tree and to execute the pruning. You are more likely to save the tree with the help of a professional who can brace and cable branches if necessary.

Down n Out
Down n Out

Stand back from your tree or shrub and gently loosen snow with a broom. You don’t want a branch to fall and knock you out in the process! Check evergreens carefully, as their damage is not as evident, the damaged branch remains green and you would not notice it until spring. Damaged trees and shrubs are more vulnerable to disease and therefore it is wise to take care of pruning as soon as possible. In some cases, arborists are able to save branches and leader trunks if the repair occurs before the wood dries out.
Do not use pruning pastes after cuts- they can actually impede the healing of wound. If you are uncertain whether to paste, check with an arborist.


Most woody perennial shrubs can bear a severe pruning if necessary, but one third of the current growth is safe for all, and can spur some rejuvenation, which is actually good for older shrubs.

Next week, when the temperatures return to normal, you will find most of your landscape will as well. Don’t be too quick to dispose of trees and shrubs that are damaged. Work with them and you will find most will come back next year none the worse for wear. In the meanwhile, visit YouTube and check out some of the great pruning video tutorials, sharpen and oil your pruners, and start planning next weekend’s BBQ!
Calgary is offering free disposal of branches at its landfills. Thank You City of Calgary.


Published by


Avid student of horticulture, active volunteer with the Horticultural Society, maker of beautiful garden spaces. I am now available for Garden Design services, custom planters, DIY consultations in Calgary and surrounding areas. Inquire at 403-837-9980 or

3 thoughts on “Snow Damaged Trees and Shrubs”

  1. My Swedish columnars did not loose any branches however many branches are drooping… should I leave it or wait until the leaves fall and then tie the branches up… what can I do to help it?

    1. Hi Trish,
      Mine are the exactly the same way. I have already tied my branches up LOOSELY, to allow circulation amongst the leaves. My trees are quite large and needed support long before the leaves drop. Either way will benefit the tree. Just remember to keep things loose for circulation. I feel in this case earlier intervention is the best treatment. Good luck,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s