Splaying

When we get heavy snow fall or ice storms an inherent problem of some plants becomes obvious--splaying. Fastigiate species and cultivars -- those with multiple main branches -- are especially prone to splaying (i.e., spreading apart). Please do not confuse fastigiate with columnar; the later being tall and slender with a single main trunk (see Fig. 100-a in my book). Fastigiate species are tall and slender too, but have multiple leaders. With the ice or snow load the leaders of these fastigiate species are pulled apart and down. Unfortunately, this splaying can permanently affect the shape of the plant as they seldom totally rebound. And, while this spreading can be dealt with when specimens are small (by tying the branches together, assuming one has the interest and time to do so), what is to be done as the specimen gets taller? Remember, ALL woody plants continue to grow (unless dormant) while alive until they die. This splaying is especially a problem with some conifer species such as the Eastern white cedar (arborvitae) shown in the photo above and various other species with appressed branches (both fastigiate and columnar). Many conifers evolved a spreading and near horizontal (often downward sloping) branching system (thus cone shaped) and pliable branches to deal with the potential temporary overload from ice and/or snow. The splaying is more likely for many species and cultivars when they are young, but in general I would recommend avoiding them, certainly in what is initially a tight space.

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