October 2020 went from record high temperatures in the 80s to record lows, 19 degrees by October 25. May 2021 also made some shocking temperature changes. These rapid and dramatic changes can cause woody plants to die back, lose branches or die completely.
Mikl has been waiting and waiting before pruning this spring, because sometimes our woody plants can leaf out very late. Here is a way to tell when to prune:
If the bark is wrinkled, the twigs snap and don’t bend, and if when you scratch the bark with a thumbnail and underneath it is brown not green, then the branch is dead, and by early June, it’s time to prune. Even native plants can be damaged by rapid temperature changes. This winter/spring we saw Gambel Oak trees die back to the ground, and now they are growing back from the roots as vigorous bushes.
This kind of mass of sucker growth can be thinned by 20-30% to encourage more upright growth that will grow taller faster. Severe die-back can be corrected by thinning in the spring for 3 years. If the shoots grow tall, lanky, and weak, shorten them by 10-20% and they will branch more and be stronger.