In the beginning…

Every good story starts with a disaster… Let’s go back to the night of February 12, 2021. It’s been raining and the temperatures are beginning to plummet to freezing. Not good. Ice is starting to accumulate on the broadleaf evergreens and conifers in the garden and I make a few half-hearted attempts to knock it off, but it’s cold…and wet…and dark…and I don’t like the combination of those things. Plus, I can’t stay up all night knocking the ice off. It’s time for bed. 9:30 pm rolls around, the lights flicker and the electricity goes out.

What follows is a long night of loud cracks and crashing booms as the trees around us explode to pieces. The house shakes a few times. I can only lie there in groggy fatalistic horror wondering what will greet my eyes in the morning. It sounds like the woods around us will be completely flattened by morning. It’s a long night and it seems like daylight will never come.

But, it does. In the morning, the house is cold and I peer outside. I can’t really see much, so we start a fire in the wood stove and head outside to survey the damage. It had looked like we were going to get through this winter unscathed, and I had even taunted a few of our eastern U.S. friends about the arrival of spring just a week earlier. But now…

Our flattened Azara microphylla by the side door. Impromptu orange plastic bucket catches the torrent of melting ice from our gutter that was dislodged during the storm. Ashamed of the plastic bin on my green kneeling bench. This holds our car charging cable. Not ideal for garden esthetics. But, as you will see, the garden is an eclectic mix of, um, my constant struggle to have things perfect but not having the time or energy to make it so. I want to design a cute wooden structure for the charging equipment, maybe with a green roof of succulent. But that takes time and how do I balance that with dealing with the ice disaster? Hint: This will be a long running theme…

Azara microphylla crushed down by ice
Azara microphylla
Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Sentinel’ (manzanita) and Hebe ‘Hineura’ in the rock garden

Our privacy screen of conifers has been partially flattened. These block our view of the “rustic, but effective” deer fence (left) and our neighbor’s large plywood shed (not shown).

Row of Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’ and ‘Lobbii’

It always amazes me that, somehow, falling branches always aim directly for shrubs and smash them to bits. They never seem to fall on the large swaths of dormant herbaceous perennials that are lying dormant underneath the soil and would have been protected. This was a Morello californica. I was going to prune it this spring anyway as it was getting too big, but this is ridiculous. I would have been more nuanced and judicious with my technique. Not this hack job that our poplar (large trunk in background) performed for us. I can just hear some of my nursery friends saying that is what we get for having a poplar. Poplars are notoriously prone to shattering in storms. But, the poplar stays and I accept the consequences as long as I can complain about it.

Bushes smashed by fallen poplar branches in an ice storm
Morello californica with its spirit crushed by the schoolyard bully

It’s more than a little frightening to see some of the poplar branches that have lodged vertically into the ground below. I can just imagine if that had been a human head. This one lodged about 6 inches into our hard-packed basalt gravel driveway…

This one tried to spear itself through the heart of our Rhododendron ‘Loderi Queen Mary’. It was a struggle to get it out. Shocking to see that it penetrated about 24 inches into our mucky clay soil.

These little noisy jerks made it through the night okay and obviously didn’t care as long as they got fed.

Steller's Jays feeding in driveway
Steller's jays

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