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Some Damaged Trees and Shrubs Can be Saved

OSSINING, N.Y. – John Caporale said he's been in the landscaping and construction business for 25 years and has never seen any storm do as much damage to trees as last Saturday's snow storm did. That doesn't mean, however, that every broken tree must be cut down. Some can be salvaged.

"People on major properties are losing thousands and thousands of dollars in trees, beautiful stuff," said Caporale, owner of JC Land and Site Development based on Havell Street. "It's not that great for my business because we do more construction now, but the tree guys have been working around the clock."

Margaret Falk, the associate vice president for landscape, gardens and living collections at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, said last weekend's snowstorm caused the most damage that she has seen in her 20 years working at the garden.

"It was the timing of the heavy, early snow storm," said Falk, who lives in Scarsdale. "The heavy, wet snow and the wind, that combination was just devastating."

Homeowners across the region have seen their trees and shrubs damaged to one degree or another, at an untold cost. Some properties will need replanting but some can be repaired.

To help shrubs or small trees to rebound from the storm, gardeners can gently knock the snow off of plants and then go through with sharp pruning or lopping shears to make clean cuts where branches have cracked or broken, Falk said.

With trees that have lost limbs, it is best to call a professional, Falk said, to assess whether the tree has become unbalanced and should be pruned or whether the tree should be removed because it is unsafe.

"Once a tree becomes unbalanced, it might be more likely to come down or break apart in another storm," Falk said.

Some of the oldest and biggest trees experienced the worst breaks and have the least chance of surviving.

At the botanical garden, the old Magnolia trees suffered some of the worst damage of the storm, Falk said, partially due to having relatively short trunks with many branches low to the ground.

"The really sad thing is when big, old trees start to crack and break," Falk said. "There's no way you can recreate the beauty of a wide, old tree like our magnolias. There's no way you can re-grow a hundred-year-old branch."

Philip Zegarelli, the village manager in Briarcliff Manor, said he has been thinking of designing some sort of program to address tree maintenance.

"I do think we need to look at the concept of pruning or trimming trees to prevent some of the outages in areas that often get knocked out of electricity," he said. "With Hurricane Irene, the Halloween trick-or-treat storm, the cloud burst, it's been brutal on the budget, our manpower and, believe me, there's edginess on the part of our residents when the power's out."

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