Q: I'm concerned about ice and snow damaging my four 8-foot-tall arborvitae. How should I protect them?

-Joe Centorino, Marshfield, Mass

A: Roger Cook replies: You are right to be worried. Multistemmed shrubs like your arborvitae are easily damaged by snow and wind storms. Some people cover their shrubs in burlap, but I prefer two- or three-strand jute twine. Don't use wire; it can scar the plant.

The easiest approach is to wrap the twine around the outside of the plant, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Pull it snug but not so tight that it breaks branches and deforms the shape of the plant.

With a little more effort, you can tie the twine beneath the outer foliage. That's what I do because I think it looks better. The trick is to tie the main stems together in two or three spots—just snug, not real tight—as high as you can above the point where the stems separate. Whatever method you use, remember to remove the twine in the spring so the tree will grow and move naturally.
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