After the Storm

Picking up the pieces

Remove, Replant, Regenerate

by Charlie Thigpen

With the recent storms behind us, we must move forward. As I walk around my own yard I see 10-foot–wide root balls in the air leaving crater-like holes in the landscape. Massive oaks and pines are crisscrossed like piles of toothpicks on a gargantuan scale. The yard I have gardened for 10 years was changed forever in a matter of seconds, and so were many lives. Although I know my family is extremely fortunate to have come through the tragic storms without harm and minimal damage to our home, it makes me sad to see beautiful, old trees twisted and thrown to the ground. The once–living giants have been laid to rest forever, but through the tangled debris I can see a few blooms. Resilient flowers on the oak-leaf and French hydrangeas poke out of the rubble.

Where to Start

If you have piles of debris around your home start moving it one limb at a time. Start in the front yard and move to the back. Carry off logs one at a time or move soil one shovel–full at a time. Replant perennials, shrubs or trees one at a time. It’s a day-by-day process.

Be Smart

When replanting always evaluate your surroundings. My yard was shady, so I planted shade-loving plants, but now I have pockets of bright sun, so I will need a few sun lovers. I might even have to relocate a few of my old shade plants to get them out of the sun. I used to complain about not having any sun in the landscape, so now I have it. Be careful what you complain about!

Cut back perennials and shrubs that were crushed or damaged and be patient. If new growth appears, give the plants a dose of fertilizer to speed up the new growth. Established plants are resilient, and if their roots aren’t damaged they will usually come back strong. Many old woody plants will benefit from being cut back, and some may be rejuvenated and even bloom better on the vigorous, new growth.

Don’t plant trees too close to your home or power lines, and think about planting slower growing trees, such as red and white oaks, beech, ironwood and Zelkova. Homeowners often want to plant fast–growing trees for quick results but most fast growing trees, such as silver maples, Bradford pears, willows and poplars, have brittle wood that can be messy and even dangerous during stormy weather.

Help One Another

If you were affected by the recent tornadoes, just keep rebuilding and planting a little bit at a time. If it becomes overwhelming, give it a break, but don’t give up. If you weren’t affected by the stormy weather, consider helping someone who was. Many landscapes and lives have been changed forever, so we must help one another in the recovery process. It will take weeks, months and years for some, but we will come together and reconstruct what has been destroyed. Life will go on, and plants will continue to grow. So set out a small tree for the future. You might not be able to enjoy its shade, but hopefully your children and future generations will.

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