This Week's Podcast: Like Nature, I Go On
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Listeners to the show know that Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee destroyed a great deal of my New Jersey garden. Then came the snowstorm of October 29th, 2011. We didn’t have autumn color. In fact the leaves didn’t even fall off the trees. When one foot of heavy snow covered the leafy trees, branches began to break. Several trees and shrubs, for example the Asian dogwood ‘Wolf Eyes’, were bent to the ground. To my happy surprise, the dogwood sprang back from four feet to its full nine feet height.
After Hurricane Irene, I cleaned up about half of the debris with the help of four guys. We mixed a lot of the sand that the flood brought with $300 worth of compost and spread it where the soil had been washed away. Then I sowed grass seed hoping the new grass would help to hold the soil. A week later, Tropical Storm Lee brought rain onto the already saturated soil, and a much deeper flood covered the property for four days. The new sand, compost and grass seed were washed away. One surprise last spring was finding mounds of sand sprouting fresh green grass (in the wrong place). The grass had to be weeded, and the sand removed.
When land is disturbed from plowing, weeds sprout, and that is a reason farmers use herbicide. My land was disturbed for sure, and weeds didn’t just come up from the soil, the flood brought thousands, maybe millions of new seeds that all seemed to germinate. Last week I weeded an area that is about a third of the woodland garden. The woodland beds beneath a tall white pine had been badly hit and covered with one to two feet of sand. When I finished cleaning up that part, I realized that most of the plants I hoped to find were gone – dead or washed away. For instance, there were no martagon lilies and few Trillium. All single (100) and double (30) bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’) were gone. The yellow American wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) are no more, and I couldn’t find the precious and rare Japanese wood poppies (Glaucidium palmatum).
During the hurricanes, the soil became so saturated and pudding-like that the roots of many young trees were loosened and the trunks tilted by the wind. The tall young fastigiate red-leaf peach fell right over (above). I managed to straighten some of the trees as soon as the water went down enough for me to slosh out to the garden. I walked the peach tree upright and tied it to stakes. A day later, the ground was too solid to straighten any more of the young trees — many are still leaning. Amazingly, the peach bloomed with its double pink flowers in spring and leafed out normally: it didn’t miss a beat (right).