Arbormageddon ice storm smites Austins trees

Arbormageddon ice storm smites Austins trees

February 08, 2023
Icicles are picturesque on a whale’s tongue agave

Most people’s gardens get shadier over time. Mine is growing sunnier. Lattermost weather events over the past 15 years — droughts, hotter summers, and Snowpocalypse — have stressed and thinned the tree canopy in my garden. A week ago, on February 1st, Austin took flipside pummeling when an ice storm struck. Arbormageddon, local wags soon dubbed it.

It wasn’t all that unprepossessed — a stratum or two unelevated freezing — but plane so, increasingly than a half-inch of ice encrusted Austin’s trees. Live oaks hold their leaves all winter. Weighed lanugo with ice, and stressed from lattermost weather over the last few years, many of them couldn’t withstand the strain. For two days and a night we winced to hear trees cracking, limbs snapping, and crashing thuds all virtually our house.

Trees wideness the municipality moreover fell onto power lines, sending homes and businesses into days of darkness and cold. On our block, 6 days crept by surpassing power was restored. Without seeing the forfeiture wideness town, I’m unrepealable that Austin Energy’s crews and those borrowed from other cities were working as fast and as nonflexible as they could, in dangerous conditions, to get power lines when up.

We are lucky that our house and vehicles, deck and patio were largely untouched. A few fencing panels sustained damage, and we lost an A/C unit.

About 50% of my understory trees, like this red-berried possumhaw, were crushed by falling limbs. But the agaves, big yuccas, snifter tree, and stucco walls survived. It was bad but could have been a whole lot worse.

Along our street, wrenched live oaks looked as if a small tornado had whirled through.

Trees in my neighbor’s yard

Crape myrtles held up well overall. This one at a neighbor’s house was lovely all frosted with ice.

While sad well-nigh our trees, I found moments to appreciate, like my driveway border, looking pretty plane in late winter and under a layer of ice. No trees here to crush anything! Hooray for ornamental grasses, yuccas, purple skullcap, and ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia.

Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia), one of my tough-as-nails favorites, coated in ice

Whale’s tongue agaves (Agave ovatifolia) sailed through the ice storm, as did red yuccas (Hesperaloe parviflora). The Anacacho orchid tree in when wilting to the ground under the ice but has once straightened up. The toothless sotol in the steel pipe may be a goner though; it didn’t like December’s Arctic freeze either.

Squid agave (Agave bracteosa) can hands handle low 30s temps and ice, plane in a pot. The Japanese maple wilting but did not unravel — and thankfully falling live oak limbs missed it.

My husband spent the weekend sawing and hauling limbs and stacking them withal the street. I did the same with smaller limbs on Monday. On Tuesday our tree guy arrived and spent the unshortened day removing dangerous wrenched limbs from the canopy as well as gigantic limbs on the ground that were too big for us to hands tackle.

How things looked throughout our yard surpassing all the cleanup

The Texas mountain laurel my daughter grew from seed — which had mostly recovered from Snowpocalypse forfeiture — took a uncontrived hit from a big live oak branch.

Half of it was snapped off, and the other side is now leaning at a 45-degree angle. I think it’ll live though. We’ll stake it to try to get it upright again.

The owl box tree lost well-nigh half its canopy. One big workshop landed in the pool. Flipside on the stucco wall. The chairs and wall were spared – yay!

Another wile shows the extent of forfeiture to the tree.

A big limb came lanugo on the other side of the garden but missed the shed and snifter tree. Two of the boxwood balls sustained some wrenched branches, but at least they’re still standing.

This cluster of live oaks, which were recovering from having their root zone buried long ago, lost significant branches. I hope they’ll be OK. A metal spindle (lying in the foreground) took a uncontrived hit that tapped it.

This space is going to be much sunnier and hotter this summer. But that ways variegated plants to try. I’d been leaning toward planting sedge in my stock-tank planter. But now, with less shade, I’m considering silver ponyfoot without all.

Meanwhile, until the municipality picks up our Arbormageddon pile or our tree guy can get to it, we’re enjoying our newly fortressed home. This 6-foot-tall pile of stacked limbs (does not include the full day of cuttings our tree guy hauled off) stretches all the way withal our street frontage, from here withal the island bed…

…to the property line on the other side of the driveway.

If only it could alimony out the deer, it might be a worthy trade – hah!

Pruning damaged oaks? Do this to stave spreading oak wilt, which kills trees

If you have ice-damaged oak trees, expressly live oaks or red oaks, here’s what you need to know. The tree disease oak wilt is lethal to most live oaks and red oaks that get it, and it spreads hands from a sick tree to a healthy one. The slime that causes oak wilt spreads in two ways: 1) underground through interconnected tree roots and 2) whilom ground via a protrude that’s attracted to tree sap (from cuts and wounds) and is most zippy from February through June in Central Texas.

We are currently in the do-not-prune months for live oaks to prevent the spread of oak wilt. Obviously, you need to cut dangerous hanging branches out of your trees right now so they don’t fall on you or passersby. Get this washed-up as soon as possible, and make sure those cuts are immediately sealed with paint — right when the cut is made to prevent the protrude from getting into it.

But don’t prune all the ugly tears and amputated limbs on your oaks right now. The trees will have sealed off those wounds within the first few days of injury. Cutting those now just opens your trees to oak wilt exposure. Schedule non-emergency, stimulating pruning in July or later. Late fall is best, when trees are no longer summer-stressed. Here in Central Texas, oak pruning should be washed-up July through January, when the oak wilt protrude is less active. Also, remember to sanitize pruning tools surpassing starting and between trees to prevent the oak wilt slime from spreading from tree to tree.

Click here for increasingly info well-nigh oak wilt and how to prevent its spread.

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Make plans to shepherd the Budding Out Plant Sale & Festival on March 18 at the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead, TX. Rare and distinctive plants will be offered, as well as art, ceramics, jewelry, food, drink, music, and other entertainment for the whole family. Members have early wangle and get in free. Non-member ticket is $5. Children 12 and under are free.

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