THICK WET snow accumulates surprisingly fast and is perfectly grand except for its weight.
Most gardeners resolve, every two or three years, to do something about slender upright conifers (such as Hicks' yew, the Arizona cypress and, if they are rash enough to grow it in this unsuitable climate, the Italian cypress, the thin narrow tall junipers, etc.) but extremely few gardeners get round to it.
I am extremely fond of my yews, junipers and cypress, but they are vulnerable to wet snows that can flatten them. There are two or three things to do, and the only problem is remembering to do it:
The upright yews do not have a single trunk, but three or four, and all of them grow straight up like a Lombardy poplar. If they are weighted down by snow they spread apart, and a 120-foot yew can be laid flat. Even worse, it may bend halfway over, and if the snow is followed by ice and a heavy wind, stems may be snapped.
Fortunately, yew wood is marvelously tough and pliant, which is why the yew was always chosen for the manufacture of bows. Even so, if the wind hits it just wrong, when weighted down with snow, it can break. To prevent this, the gardener merely runs a heavy wire or light chain through a length of garden hose, and then uses the hose as if it were a rope, tying the upright yew stems together, so they do not spread out from the weight of snow and wind.
This is a simple operation which, like other simpleSee EARTHMAN, Page 3, Col. 1 EARTHMAN, From Page 1 operations, somehow manages to take much longer to perform than the gardener thought it would. Allow a good hour and a half per yew.
The hose is not pulled too tight around the stems, just tight enough to keep the heavy stems from sprawling outward.
Cypresses have a disconcerting habit, not of sprawling outward like the yews, but of going down flat. They do not have large root systems. More than once, over the years, I have had cypresses keel over with their roots in the air.
To prevent this, I know of nothing better or simpler than staking the trees. Iron pipes work, if set deeply enough in the earth that they do not keel over with the cypress.
Once I made some arches with Arizona cypresses. I used metal pipe behind each young tree, then let the tops grow to form the arch. The cypress takes clipping like a dream. Once the arches got really thick and luxuriant, however, a wind from an unaccustomed direction flattened the whole works. If I were doing it again, I would use a fairly elaborate cage arrangement, somewhat like those constructions in playgrounds, since poles are not enough.
Then I would simply let the cypresses inside the cages of pipe grow out, and would clip them so they conceal the framework, yet never grew very far past it.
Since hardly anybody grows any of these true cypresses, perhaps it is a waste of space to mention this, but I know how disappointing it is to get the cypresses into rather nice arches or pillars (they grow with gratifying speed, by the way) and then have them keel over. Usually they do this in late January, but a heavy snow before Christmas would lay low many a specimen.
A very thin upright juniper, such as "Skyrocket," should always be supported. If it is grown against a fence, it can easily be tied to a fence post that extends six feet above ground. This is quite enough support. A juniper thus supported will look fine, after a massive wet snow, while an identical juniper unsupported will lie at an odd and ugly angle only few inches above the ground.
The ordinary (and exquisite) wild juniper of local fields and pastures and hedgerows might also be laid flat, but it is resilient and will straighten up later. It may take it some months, however, to become vertical again, as if it had had one too many gaudy nights.
Once it reaches some size and has developed some branching, it needs no special comforting in snow, rain, drought or any other adversity. I have never known why this beautiful creature is so rarely seen in our gardens. I suppose it is because we assume that if we see it along hedgerows it cannot be very nice.
Lawson's cypress and Leyland cypresses are tremendously tough against both snow and wind.
Often you will see them straight and untouched in a garden in which the upright yews are sent sprawling. Indeed, those two false-cypresses make excellent windbreaks. Their only defect is that they quickly outgrow the places assigned to them. Leyland's cypress will reach 150 feet, for instance, and you really do not want it at the corner of a small modest house (which is where we are certain to see it, once it becomes better known in this country, because it grows four feet a year and nurserymen are bound to notice they can make a lot more money on it than on the yews that grow 10 inches a year).
Boxwood is often spread apart by damp snow. This is not entirely a bad thing, since box can stand a bit of air and light inside the bush. But of course if you have a fine old five-foot globe of box, you do not want its branches laid out every which way. It will have to be tied in like the yews, with heavy wire inside a hose, or with heavy insulated wire.
In theory, the gardener gets out with a broom as soon as the snow gets heavy. This is fine unless you are away from home, or are in bed with pneumonia, etc.
Once the evergreens are bent over or bent flat, you must be careful knocking the snow off them, because under the pressure of its own weight it will have begun to turn to ice on the branches, and any virtuoso flailing about will snap branches or even main stems.
Box is especially vulnerable to lively exercises of this kind. It is better as a rule to let the snow gradually disappear, then attend to the wiring that should have been done years ago.
Hemlocks, as far as I know, are utterly indestructible. They are beautiful in the Carolina mountains, and they make fine hedges of 15 feet even here. I hate hemlocks for no better reason than that I once tried to garden with a tremendous row of old hemlocks just to the south, nicely cutting off all sun.
Hollies are grossly ignored in gardens today. They must not be very fashionable plants. But they are glorious in their beauty, superbly adapted to our climate, long-lived and for all practical purposes flawless.
They are also tough and strong. I should think few spring projects are better than the planting of a few hollies. "Foster No. 2" (what a romantic name for a glorious holly) is excellent for those small gardens in which a narrow upright holly is wanted. It can be clipped to the proportions of a column, but if this is done, it should have support (a post or a pole behind it) for the first few years of its life.
I assume all gardeners have once again been admiring the common ivy. One way to acquire a superb deep-green evergreen tree within only 10 years is to plant ivy at the foot of an old silver or Norway maple, water it freely through the summers, and give it a mulch of manure in January. The result will be a tree full of ivy. This is handsomer and better in all ways than a tree full of maple.