The recent ice storm has devastated our willow trees. Most of the limbs are broken. We would like to save them if we can. Will they grow back if the limbs are cut back to the trunk. Also, how do we keep borers out of them?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Mary: What do they say? “If you don’t like the weather in Kentucky wait a day.” We are all thankful the ice storm has passed but it left many damaged trees in its path. It sounds like your willows were hit pretty hard. If the trees are severely damaged or if more than half the limbs are gone, it may not be worth spending the money to have them pruned. Pruning an already damaged tree can lead to weak and brittle growth that may break off in the next storm. It really is best to have a certified arborist come take a look at your trees so a local professional can give you advice. It is hard to say without seeing your trees, but if they are not aesthetically pleasing anymore or not adding value to your property I would have them removed, especially since they have insect damage to begin with. Having open wounds will only make this worse. It is not cheap to have trees removed but it is a lot cheaper than paying to have them pruned and treating them for borers, only to have them die later and then paying to have them removed. Willows belong to the genus Salix. There are hundreds of species and even more hybrids. Some are considered more valuable in the landscape than others. They are susceptible to many insect and disease problems, including the mottled willow borer, which can be controlled by spraying while they are in the flying stage, usually July-August. Borers as well as other insect or disease problems are much more likely to occur on trees that are already in decline. This should be taken into consideration when making your decision. We can get sentimental about our trees, but if they are not healthy it is best to replace them with a better option for that space. You can contact your county Extension agent for a list of certified arborists in your town.