Monday, December 7, 2015

Spoils of Winter... the Ice Storm


My poor Bald Cyprus wilted to the ground looking like Snuffy... she recovered as the ice melted!
Following the massive damage from the unusual ice storm, many have had to say goodbye to cherished friends who lovingly provided shade from the Summer sun, a leafy site for birds to nest, and then gently spoke to us as breezes rustled through leaves in Autumn. It was with great foreboding that many of us watched the first bits of ice form and expand with the drizzle and fog. As the power went off during the first night, we sat in the stillness and waited... then heard with horror the falling drizzle becoming small pings of sleet before reverting to drizzle once again. The scope of the damage to our world was not yet apparent, yet we could innately feel angst as worry placed her clutch on our hearts...we were afraid for our forest.  

As light broke even the smallest the branches were becoming encased in an ever-widening band of ice. Over time it changed from frosty, to clear ice, and once again to a glazed frost, with even a small drip frozen mid-motion. As the day progressed day a slight breeze began and the one could hear the smaller branches began to snap. As the ice continued to accumulate, massive branches and entire tree trunks could be heard moaning and creaking, echoing through the silence as they began to break under the weight of it. Following these warnings a sudden and gigantic last break shattered the silence as a slow free-fall began with the swish of brittle branches before the mighty thud to the forest floor. The ice continued accumulating for days…and our hearts broke as literally thousands of our trees fell in minute succession. Our precious trees, the ‘standing people’ who guard the sentinels of our lives, had succumbed to Nature‘s whim.

Once the tears are dry, the optimistic nature of the gardener will emerge for we adapt to an ever changing scene in our gardens regardless of the cause. No rain, too much rain, heat waves, blizzards, ice storms… there is a constant seasonal obstacle. The gorgeous spring may become the parched summer, or a late freeze may eliminate spring flowering bulbs altogether and yet become a fabulous summer of lush fruits and flowers. Gardening is much like gambling… the toss of Nature’s coin my land face up or down.

We must embrace the present, clean up the spoils left by the storm, and look to the change the storm has brought us. Many of us will have sunlight in the garden for the first time in decades, so these winter days are perfect for researching and planning something new for next spring. The Hostas, who love shade, must be moved, but Iris who refused to bloom will have sunshine.

And we have been given a visual opportunity to see exactly which trees are best adapted to our weather… and ice storms seem to be part of it now. The Fruitless Mulberry, Lacebark Elm, Magnolia, Pear, and Apricot trees are not well suited and most were severely damaged The native Redbud and Caddo Maple were unaffected and the Bald Cyprus went slowly to the ground in a snuffleupagus-like mound but as ice melted, slowly pulled herself up to her full height and with a resounding pop stood whole again. The Euronymous were flattened, but they too regained their composure. This week go about the garden and make note of what fared well, and replace those who were lost with those who are hardy.

*The electric company reported it takes only 1/16th of an inch of ice on lines to cause a power outage. A small generator to run necessities would make a lovely Christmas gift… I fear there will be many more winter storms to come. 

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