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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.

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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.

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The yew bushes in front of the building I work at are flattened by snow and ice every winter, (nobody cleans it off, and if the roof gets cleared, they get extra helpings on top.) They are poorly shaped for snow (trimmed dead flat on top).

When the snow melts they are fine (and have been for 20+ years of this.)

Therefore, my suggestion is: do nothing, await the thaw.

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Although it won't hurt the yew for the branches to lay down thusly, indeed this is how many confers grow naturally anyway is to spread out after grow up first. They may not lift back up.

The hole will fill after a few years but you may not want to wait.

After the thaw, wrap the yews with twine and lift the branches back to where you want them and let the twine just rot away on its own.

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These yews are going to be fine. Cut any broken branches back to a healthy main stem. Lop off ends to relieve weight. Not a great idea to use twine at this stage as that would act like a cast on one's arm, atrophying and weakening the branch. When pruning for a hedge, I am assuming this is what you are trying to accomplish, keep the top narrower than the bottom. This is a great conifer especially if you are dealing with a bit of shade. Totally okay to flat top but make sure that the bottom branches stick out just a bit further than the branches above. In this way the bottom branches are supported by the plant because they are producing as much food as the branches on the top. If the branches on the top get more light (producing more food for the plant) these branches will be supported (nourished by the plant) more than the branches NOT producing as much food for the plant. Does that make sense? Are these shrubs in shade/part shade much of the day? Prune these guys at least twice better thrice, grin per year. Don't allow them to get lanky. Lots of light pruning is better than one big heavy pruning. Send more pics. It would be nice to know WHAT kind of yew you are dealing with, how old they are, the microenvironment and what you expect of these plants. Yews are GREAT plants! Just FYI, they are very poisonous to animals and humans. If you've got little kids around, make sure you teach them NEVER to eat anything YOU aren't feeding them. If you are worried about little kids, easiest to get rid of yews. Animals seem to understand what they can eat and what they can't. Keep an eye on domestic dogs and cats, however. Especially puppies/kittens.

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