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Agave, Mirabilis, and Sphaeralcea After Hail Storm

I usually write an annual hail post for another blog I contribute to (Pikes Peak Area Garden Help) offering tips and sympathy from those hit by the current year’s big storm. Well this year, on May 21, that storm finally hit my neighborhood, along with a big swath of the Colorado Springs area from the Broadmoor area through downtown.

Around noon, a friend-of-a-friend mentioned he’d seen something about a possible severe storm hitting our area in a few hours. My weather source hadn’t made a peep about anything like that. So…I rolled my eyes and headed home. But….I put the car in the garage, and then grabbed a few spare empty one gallon pots and put them out by the newly planted veggies and mentioned to my husband that the pots were out there if he happened to hear any hail starting.

Well. About two hours later I heard the first telltale splats of sleet, then the pings of lighter hail. In no time, my husband had the veggies covered and we stood and watched out the back door as hail the size of ping pong balls bombarded the south side of our house for about fifteen minutes. Pieces of our blue spruce rained down with the hail balls. Screens were torn off the south facing windows, and leaves were plastered against them. Our street was quickly filled with water and ice and cars that could no longer drive in the mix.

Once it was done, the sun came out quickly and neighbors ventured out to survey the damage. Everyone’s trees were stripped, some had their windows broken, plants were buried. It was hard to know where to start. We started with grabbing snow shovels, loading ice into a wheelbarrow, and running it down to the street.

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South Side Foundation Bed

As mentioned in a previous post, our tomatoes were miraculously saved by their Wall o’ Waters. And all but one of the pepper plants my husband covered survived (the one that didn’t had its protective pot blown off in the storm – there was no sign of that plant at all). Hardest hit were the plants in the hot, dry foundation bed between the driveway and the house’s foundation. This bed had looked fabulous, and now most of it was buried under a foot of hail that didn’t completely melt for days. I didn’t quite have the stomach to deal with cleaning that bed up for several days. The desert four o’ clock (Mirabilis multiflora) was completely gone. Fortunately, I knew this tough native plant has a HUGE taproot, and that when it felt like it, it would send up new green growth. The orange globe mallow (Spharalcea munroana) and ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta faassenii) were stripped and flattened. I cut the mangled stems back to the ground (and disturbed a white-lined sphinx moth that was under the debris). The jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber) was in a similar state, possibly worse, and I went ahead and cut it back to the ground as well. The native evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) was pretty sad and there wasn’t much cutting I could do with what was left, so I just left it alone. I got a lump in my throat when I got to my treasured ‘Tanager’ gazania (Gazania krebsiana). Its blooms only open in full sun, and there I saw crushed torn buds and orange flowers encrusted in mud and a bit of ice. It had been so beautiful! I basically trimmed the damaged buds and blooms and left the rest. The iris leaves were difficult – they were so shredded and flattened! I decided to leave them for the time being since I wasn’t sure they’d releaf if I cut them off.  The Tennessee echinacea (Echinacea tennesseensis) and prickly poppies (Argemone polyanthemos) were mangled but still had basal foliage, so I cut off the damaged stems and blooms and left the foliage.

A week after the storm, the insurance adjuster came to evaluate our roof. As we suspected, we’d be getting a new roof. And that would involve removing the current three layers of roof – two layers of asphalt shingles and one layer of cedar shakes. And much of the debris was going to come raining down on that same bed along the south foundation of the house. I optimistically thought, “Oh well – the bed is in such bad shape that this is probably the perfect time to get the roof job over with.”  It never occurred to me that it would be two months (!) before our roof job happened.

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Brave Little Gazania Blooms Again Weeks After Storm

So it was with mixed feelings that I watched the brave little bed recover very nicely over the next several weeks. It was still early in the season and the plants were more than willing to make another go at growing. By the time late July arrived, the catmints were once again huge, and the echinacea and poppy had two foot tall blooming stalks. And then on the afternoon of July 23, we were told our roof project would start the very next morning. With such sort notice, I scrambled to find ways to help the garden survive with minimal damage. An empty plastic garbage can was put over as much of the echinacea and poppy as possible. Large black plastic plant pots went over some of the largest mounding plants; smaller pots went over smaller plants. Much was going to just have to deal with whatever came down off the roof.

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“Prep” in Foundation Bed for Roof Project

The next morning, the crew showed up bright and early, big blue tarps were laid over the bed and the driveway, and the tear-off commenced. I watched shingles rain down past the windows for hours. The pile of debris grew and grew. At some point, there was a pause, and I thought “Wow…well that wasn’t too bad.” Then I realized that they still had the layer of cedar shakes to deal with. By the end of the day, all layers had been torn off and nearly all of the debris had been hand carried out to the truck on the street. The tarps were pulled off the bed. Some of the protective pots had gotten knocked off and the plastic trashcan had been pushed to the house by the debris. It didn’t look pretty, but it had been worth putting out the protective pots. Unfortunately, it had been nearly 90 degrees, and everything under the pots and tarp had been roasted a bit (I hadn’t even thought about that!). But! At least I knew that this really was it, there would be no further damage to this bed this year.

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Several Feet of Debris on Driveway and Foundation Bed

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After the Roof Tear-Off (looks better than after the hail)

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“Splatted” Catmint After Roof Tear-Off

After the roof was finished the next day (yes! two days! whoo hoo!), I got out and surveyed everything. Once again the catmints were splatted out and I decided to cut them back to the ground again. Catmints are so resilient that I wasn’t too worried about them not recovering that late in the season. Everything else I pretty much left, with just a little bit of judicious cutting down of damaged bloom stalks. Nearly all of it has recovered (again) quite well. The irises are the one exception, so I’ll just have to see what they do next spring.

So…just a word to the wise. If you end up needing a new roof, just know that your foundation plantings are going to sustain some damage. The best scenario is that your driveway is able to handle having a large truck on it to collect much of the debris (ours was not). But you will still have sides of the house that are not next to the driveway and plantings along those sides will need some more protection. In the promotional materials, most roofing companies will promise to do their very best to protect your precious plantings. While it may be true they do their best, their best may not be as good as you hope. There is only so much they can do, especially if you’re having multiple layers of shingles removed (any plywood leaned over the bed will inevitably collapse under the weight). The responsibility will fall to you to protect your plants as best as possible, and to be prepared for a recovery period.

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Two Months After Roof Project

 

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