It's been snowing on these Yew bushes for the past three months of this harsh Massachusetts winter. With regular gentle cleaning, they've been doing fine. After last week's snow it warmed up a bit, and the snow began to melt, so we left them alone.
Unfortunately, the following day the temperature dropped again and the melted snow froze, forming patches of a heavy mixture of snow and ice, which caused severe bends in a number of branches.
Click on pictures for larger view.
I haven't cleared the snow because in some areas it appears to be offering some support from underneath. If the forecast is correct, however, it will melt in the next few days.
I'd really like to save these branches. Although they're obviously straining, very few have actually broken; and while some are brittle, most seem quite pliable.
How should I proceed?
Now that it's winter again, I'm posting a long overdue update! We did absolutely nothing, and I'm pleased to report that all of the branches stood back up once the ice melted. Some of the edges and small twigs remained brown, and we eventually trimmed those. There was new growth on every bush during the summer, and they remained a favorite feeding and hiding spot for birds, chipmunks, squirrels and a beautiful fat skunk! In November, we trimmed them just a bit rounder on the tops, but made no major changes. I'm optimistic about their survival through the winters to come.