There is no time for tears in the garden after a storm as there is plenty of work to be done.
First thing, if you have electricity and water, is to wash the salt off your plants. If you don’t have electricity, then just hope it will rain soon.
Next thing is to phone your favourite landscaper and tree surgeon to make sure you get on their list of properties to attend. They are busy people and will have many calls for help, so it could take a while for them to come. Be patient.
Ideally, your helpful landscaper or tree surgeon should have a chipping machine as this will save costly trucking to the Marsh Folly facility and the chippings can be used later as a mulch in your garden.
If your back is in good shape, you might like to drag the fallen branches and palm leaves to a pile that is easily accessible to a truck or chipping machine. This will save time and money when the landscapers eventually arrive to clear your garden.
Then rake or pick up the leaves that are strewn all over the lawn. Pile these onto a cloth that you can pick up and take to your compost heap or bin. These leaves will eventually turn into compost, a wonderful way to enrich the soil in your garden. Or, if you can’t wait to produce compost, then simply spread the leaves around trees or shrubs as mulch.
Decisions then need to be made about your fallen trees. Can they be resuscitated? Is it worthwhile pulling them upright and staking them? Can you do this or do you need to call in expert help? Sadly some trees will never recover.
Take the opportunity to learn from your storm. Look and see which plants have survived best around your garden and neighbourhood and resolve to only plant these in your garden in future.
Endemic plants evolved here and should stand up best to hurricane conditions, but even so there are differences in their ability to withstand storms.
Bermuda Olivewood Bark, Cassine laneana, appears to be the overall winner amongst our endemic trees. It remains green and lush after storms and can be planted as a specimen tree or as a hedge. Bermuda Palmettoes, Sabal bermudana, are fairly resistant though their fallen leaves can be a nuisance.
The decision to trim back your battered plants is one you must take for yourself, but don’t do it too soon while we are still in the hurricane season as tender new growth will fare badly in the next storm. If you are going to trim then it is best to do this well in advance of Hurricane Season.
It is a little late to tell you this but it might help next time: It is a good idea to prune back prized or young trees and shrubs before the storm to reduce the wind leverage on root systems. Better to have a small plant in the ground than a large one out of it.
You should also have moved plants in pots and containers to protected sites, preferably indoors or in the lee of a building. Tall container plants may be laid on their side.
It would be wonderful if property owners would take this opportunity to cut back all their Brazilian or Mexican Peppers, Schinus terebinthifolius. They are an obvious blot on our landscape at the moment as they stand leafless and brown all over the island.
Don’t despair, it is amazing how soon the island will turn green and beautiful again.
Written by Nigel & Diana Chudleigh on behalf of The Garden Club of Bermuda, www.gardenclubbermuda.org
The Garden Club of Bermuda was started in 1921 to stimulate interest in horticulture, floral design and related subjects, and to aid in the conservation of natural resources of the Island. To this end its members work hard to raise money for horticultural and environmental scholarships, and to support the local environmental community.