And there is
           the big one . . .

      (followed by the REALLY big one)

       Oh, the happy innocence of last year when we in South Florida escaped the violence of four hurricanes that ravaged the rest of the state. The days of driving north to meetings and seeing towns in which all the roofs had turned blue with FEMA tarpaulins. (FEMA- I could spell out some disgusting [disgusted] meaning for the acronyms, but the official name is Federal Emergency Management Authority. A group of crony-appointments by the Bush administration, who found that they could not cope with a real emergency from their Washington offices, and spent their energies in c.y.a. activities when they could have been getting on with what they needed to do.)


      Be all that as it may. Fort Lauderdale got hit severely this year. Not to the same degree of magnitude as the unfortunates on the Gulf Coast, but enough to hurt. Our gardens and our trees have been growing for more than 25 years without thoughts of 100 mph winds. We prune - well I prune, and I am pleased to say that I had the form of my trees corrected to avoid double leaders and weak crotches. None of my trees split, but that is small consolation when almost without exception they snapped off ten to fifteen feet above the ground.

      Palm trees with 12-16" trunks, that were my 40 ' upper storey, broke off at six feet.

Those that didn't break (the more slender and flexible species) were stripped of their leaves and, in some cases, bent over to the ground. My huge mango that was a cornerstone of the garden lost part of every branch, as did the macadamia, lychee, jaboticaba and many of the flowering trees. The avocado trees snapped off and the citrus bent over to the ground.

The follow-up - a couple of weeks with a chainsaw cutting the downed trees into manageable lengths, and piling these at the front of the driveway - showed much of the understorey still there, but the change from moist shade to blistering sun burned all the tender leaves to a crisp.

Our city council came up trumps, organising a series of pick-ups by a fleet of trucks equipped with huge clamshell cranes, so that gradually the 10 feet high piles of debris down the sides of every street were reduced, leaving scraped grass and pitted driveways, but at least some end in sight for the mess.

Goodbye to much of the garden

What a difference, though. We can now see our neighbouring houses that have been hidden for twenty years since I planted the garden. Worse, we can be seen, so no more careless rapture of wandering around in whatever clothes, or none, that come to hand. Bathing suits for the hot tub, and buttons and zip fasteners chastely done up.

Is there a silver lining? Loads of compost as I rot down the leaves and smaller branches, and the chance to grow some sun-loving plants. Lots of colour in the garden next season. And, of course, if the the remaining fruit trees ever start bearing again, we should be able to pick everything from the ground.

As a matter of fact, I had started last spring to do some serious tree thinning, wishing to get more light. Note to myself: be careful what you ask for in hurricane country!



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