Gardening After the Storm
By MG Calla Victoria
Hurricane Isaac came and went, thank God for that. But Isaac was a very slow moving
storm limping along at only 6 miles per hour at a width of over three-hundred miles,
consequently we sustained much more damage than you would suspect from a Category 1 Hurricane. Isaac came in from the east and that was very evident in my garden and home.
The carpet in my foyer was damaged because the high winds blew rain under the front door
sill, as my home faces the east.
Immediately after the storm passed I went out to survey the damage and collect any
debris, also to check on my neighbors. My huge Angel’s Trumpet tree (Brugmansia
suaveolens), which sits on the right side of my home, was almost uprooted because it faces
east and is in a low lying area. Puddling water from all of that rain loosened up the soil
holding the roots of the Trumpet, and that coupled with those tremendous easterly winds left
her with a serious gangsta lean. I don’t ever want to hear winds like that again. A few of my
rose bushes in that same corridor on the right side of my garden were uprooted as well. My
drift of purple/black elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’) are all bending to
the west as they were blown from the east. I just had to prop them up and discard the few
broken stems and they are doing fine.
As I raked up, picked up, and loaded trash cans all I could smell was bar-b-q, oh yes with no
power or refrigeration and meat thawing brothers be bar-b-queing! I began to re-hang bird feeders and wind chimes that had been brought in, and as I started logging plants back out-
side and untying lawn furniture all I could hear was the loud hum of my neighbor’s generator
and I envied them, as it was Thursday evening and we lost power on Tuesday night.
Angel's Trumpet Diamondhead Elephant Ear
We were so blessed in my block because it really just looked like we had been through a severe thunderstorm. But as I drove through the neighborhood the panorama became quite different. Huge
uprooted oak trees, crepe myrtles, and palm trees blocked several streets, and there were several
downed power lines. Lamar Childress,“The Easy Rider” as I call him because he rides a big Harley, was
out with chainsaw in hand making his way through our Gentilly neighborhood helping neighbors who
found themselves with trees in the wrong places. His wife, and fellow Master Gardener, Donna Childress called me on Monday before the storm to find out what I needed as she was already at the grocery store,
a couple of hours later she dropped off some supplies. That’s what I love about New Orleanians, we are
eager to lend a helping hand. Everyone was out in full force cleaning up their lawns and yards, trying to
get back some semblance of normalcy, buying ice and searching for a free outlet at the Clearview Mall
where they could cool off while charging their cell phones and laptops. Of course the obvious things to
do after a storm is to clean up all of the debris in your garden, trim off tattered leaves and dangling
branches from your plant material. It is also a good time to access the problem areas in your garden, low lying areas that allow water to collect should be filled in with top soil to correct the problem. Another
layer of mulch is definitely a good idea because of the disturbance from the storm. Also check the area around all of your large shrubs and trees and put an additional layer of topsoil around them. They may
not have been uprooted but perhaps dislodged a bit.
Also I think they need a little treat to make them feel better, so spread a little plant food all around! The LSU AgCenter has pages of good information about salvaging your plant materials after the hurricane. Visit
their website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com.
Yes your garden is under stress after a storm event now, but sometimes a little stress on plants is a
good thing. A few of my rose bushes which had never bloomed in a year are now blooming, also my
Angel’s Trumpet that took such a beating is almost naked because most of the leaves were blown off, but it is full of blooms today. Thank goodness we got power on Sunday or I would not have been able to write this article. Thank you Entergy and all of the power companies that came from across the country to help, and thank you President Obama for caring about New Orleans!
Remember, never be too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!