Hurricane resistant landscape
By DEE CENTURY
Landscaping for Wildlife, SCCF
Coming home to my native landscape on Sanibel’s east end after Hurricane Irma was a much easier landing than returning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Charley taught that really tall trees native, or not were hazardous to my houses health unless they were kept pruned. Hurricane Charley brought down tall native mahogany and seagrapes, as well as exotic Hong Kong Orchid and Neem trees. Vegetation debris was head height upon arrival home. You could barely see the house. Much chainsaw work was required to get to the house.
Charley’s lesson learned was that much shorter shade plants are a safer idea. Many of the native small trees, shrubs, and palms came through Hurricane Charley with flying colors. Head Height shade tall enough to walk under was a better plan, so the Jamaica Caper, Marlberry, White Indigo Berry, Seven Year Apple, Simpson and Red stoppers fared well. The Lignum Vitae tree was in glorious bloom well adapted to hurricane land. The very tip top of the Pigeon Plum tree snapped off, but was still in fruit. The Silver and Green thatch palms and the Buccaneer palm acted like nothing had happened. Palms always score an A plus in hurricanes.
So the replanting strategy after Charley was to add many Cabbage palms to screen the yard of my ground level home from the lovely prying eyes that might peer down from the surrounding piling homes. The addition of multiple trunked green buttonwood trees has also turned out to be a good decision from post Irma observations. Since 2004 the green buttonwoods have grown to 25 feet and Irma just blew off many of their leaves. They have a very open crown and the wind just blows right through.
Clean up after Hurricane Irma was basically just picking up wind pruned cabbage palm fronds and about 30 minutes of chainsaw work. I have watched the ospreys gathering sticks road side for nests recently instead of snapping them from tree tops. I do have a shoulder height pile of cabbage palm fronds to haul away the Irma landscape was much more hurricane resistant and easier on this old body to clean up.
Join Dee for a garden walk at the SCCF Bailey Homestead Preserve every Tuesday at 9 a.m. to tour the demonstration gardens at the Native Landscapes and Garden Center at 1300 Periwinkle Road. The garden center staff would love to help you design, install and maintain your hurricane resistant native landscape. Call 472-1932 to set up a house call.