As spring rolled around this year the rampage of winter’s prolonged, deep and sudden freezing periods left many ravaged trees and shrubs damaged or dead in valley gardens and landscapes. A lot of people have reported the loss of fruit trees or ornamental shrubs, some even large mature trees. But looks can be deceiving.
They say patience is a virtue and in the case of winter damage and trees, it seems to be paying off. Many of the plants that looked dead are making a comeback, recovering as summer heat has spurred life back into the body of damaged woody plants. All around the tree world, life is reemerging from seemingly deadened branches, as small green leaves are budding out late into the growing season.
If you are unsure if your apparently dead tree or shrub is in fact dead, you can do what’s called a scratch test. Scratch the young bark with your fingernail or knife blade on the most recent shoots and look for green or supple, soft pithy tissue as a sign of life. If it’s brittle and brown, that shoot may be dead, but still don’t give up. Try a few more branches. Often a tree will spring back in one area and sacrifice another area, leaving deadened areas. Those dead areas can be selectively pruned off and in a couple years your tree may be fully recovered.
The tree may be dead upstairs, but life can persist underground. The roots may still have enough vigor to push through and send either new shoots or stimulate dormant buds on the trunk of the tree, starting new branches. If your fruit tree branches died off, the root stock may have survived, which will allow you to graft the variety you want back onto your stem. Or you can let the root stock grow up and see what you get.
Twisp is home to a wide array of trees that stem from other parts of the world or North America, planted for their characteristics such as wide crowns, distinct fall color, or fast growth. Those stately maples that recently framed the entrance to downtown Twisp that were recently felled from Glover Street — those were silver maple trees, a native maple to the Eastern United States.
It was tragic to see those trees go, but silver maples are known to become brittle with age and once a branch is broken decay can set in, creating a hazard. The collapse of one of the main branches onto a home this winter prompted the tree removals.
Those maples were majestically beautiful architectural trees creating a natural arch and gateway to our main street and deserve replacement. Silver maples are not recommended as street trees anymore but were widely planted in the early 20th century in cities across the U.S. because of their fast growth, attractive arching form, and nice shade. Let’s hope those stumps get grinded soon and a replacement plan will bring new shade and beauty to the streetscape.