Monday, February 14, 2011

Autopsy Of A Cyclone Ravaged Garden ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Jounal - Week 6, 2011.

  Date:  February 12, 2011

  Season:  end-of-Summer and 'wet' season

(Gardening Zone: 'Dry Tropics' area located within Tropical Zone/Australia ... comparable to U.S. Zone 11)

Here we are ... it's the end of Week 6 for 2011 and it's been an almighty time of change in my dry tropics garden over the last two weeks.  It's amazing how we take things for granted sometimes and I was definitely taking my garden for granted.  It was such a source of pleasure and contentment for me after my gardening sensibilities kicked up a notch or two in the last couple of years.  I was at that stage where I could sit back and just enjoy the garden areas around me with some minor effort exerted every now and then.  Well that's all changed!

Cyclone Yasi was the agent of change.  It thrashed its' way through this region on the 2nd of February with its' evil eye passing only just 160 kilometres to the north.  It was a Category 5 cyclone ... the highest rating possible ... and was perhaps the worst cyclone to hit north Queensland ever, well in recorded weather history anyway!

There have been some significant changes in my garden since that event and my garden will probably never look quite the same again.

Firstly, the most noticeable change is the devastation of almost all the tallest trees on the property, including the stripping of most of their leaves and the exposure of the smaller plants underneath to the full sun.

The section of the property at the bottom of our hillside concrete driveway is just a disaster zone.  It was an area filled with trees all around 30 feet in height and it's going to be the last spot to clear away.  It's the most difficult place to haul the debris out of ... we're still thinking about just how to solve that problem.

In this area I had two magnificent Tabebuias heterophylla ... this was how the tallest of those looked just a couple of weeks ago:

Well, this is it now!  Almost half the tree was snapped off and now lies in a huge heap in the background of this shot.  It has literally lost its' top half and most of the branches from the bottom half.  The Tab behind is even worse!

Then there was the massive Weeping Fig Tree situated at the end of the hillside driveway, just behind both the Tabebuias heterophylla.  My Ficus Benjamina was over 30 feet tall and nearly as wide.  Here's a great shot of it which gives an idea of the size of its' canopy:

This is it today.

Not far away was a terrific tall Citharexylum spinosum or Fiddlewood tree.  It had been flowering for a number of weeks during the summer and was looking so lovely.

 It was left looking like this:

One of the first areas that was cleared was the section down the gravel driveway.   There was so much debris down the driveway that it took two men almost three hours to cut a path through to the front gate.

My absolute favourite tree in these driveway garden beds was my beautiful white Bauhinia tree ... which was a fabulous sight when covered in its' stunning white flowers.

Here it is the morning after Yasi hit.  It had split right down the middle and had become a danger as it is right beside our driveway.

Going. going ... soon to be gone!  We've still got some trimming back to do.

There was also a gorgeous Tabebuia impetiginosa on the opposite side of the driveway and it put on a pretty display in springtime. 

Unfortunately two of our neighbours very tall trees fell right over our fence and completely knocked off the top half of my stunning Tab impetiginosa. This is what was left the morning after Yasi.

There were many stands of Duranta repens shrubs down both sides of the driveway and most of these were around 6 metres high.  Nearly all these stands either fell over completely or were ripped in half.

These tall shrubs acted as a terrific screen for the rather drab white fence behind them and they looked fabulous when covered in their purple flowers or orange berries.

These spots are now looking decidedly bare and ugly!

I'm almost positive they will all recover but in the meantime whenever I walk or drive past these spots I try to avert my eyes very very quickly!!!

We've now almost finished clearing up one side of the long gravel driveway and there are lots of these empty spots.  It will be difficult to re-plant as the ground is completely compacted now and there's large rocks everywhere.

So that's one side of the gravel driveway.  It's a very labour intensive and time consuming job clearing the mess and we haven't even started on the other side of the driveway ...

...  or anywhere else on the property!

Of course there were some survivors.  Some of the plants that came through intact were my fabulous Crotons, African Oil Palms and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.  They simply top the list in hardiness for me!!! 

Most of the tall stands of Golden Cane Palm came through well ... there were a couple of exceptions but they don't look too bad and will recover pretty quickly. 

We've still got quite a few weekends of work ahead of us, but that's the recovery report so far!!!  It's been exhausting work and that's probably a good thing.  I'm just too tired to cry after a hard day's yakka!  But I'm not the only one who's missing the lovely tall trees.  Our regular visitors, the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos have been looking a little lost ... their regular haunts are missing!


  1. Oh my Bernie - it's hard to come up with words. I'm so sorry for all your losses of such beautiful trees. So sad to see the birds looking a bit lost. It must be devastating, but it's good to see some things have made it through, and I'm glad you are okay. Good luck as you continue your cleanup, and hopefully replanting!

  2. Oh, my goodness! It is heartbreaking to lose trees, especially those that have put on lovely displays. I hope everything falls back into place for you.

  3. I don’t know what to say, its heart breaking to see your beautiful garden destroyed by the cyclone. It is going to take time to recover but you have such a passion for your garden you will put it back together it’s going to take time but you will do it, and when your feeling tired and worn out know that we are all behind you willing you on. If I could, I would come right over and help with the clean up.

  4. Oh Dear Bernie ~ My heart aches for the loss of all that beauty that you had surrounding you, and at the amount of work you are having to do for clean up. I'm glad you all survived and that your home did too. Beauty will sprout and surround you once again.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  5. Thanks Cyndy. It's definitely not looking good around here just yet, but we're working on it. So many of the birds are looking slightly bewildered with the loss of so many of the tall trees they used for food and shelter.

    Snail ... I've got fingers crossed for the trees that have been so badly damaged. I'm expecting most will recover, but my favourite ... the white Bauhinia is lost unfortunately.

    Sue, thank you lovely lady for your kind words. It's a bit like a new beginning ... the place will definitely be looking different from now on!

    Flowerlady ... it's going to be a long haul but hopefully the place will be looking good by this time next year!!

  6. It must be devastating for you. Not only to see your beautiful trees destroyed but now to have to clean up their broken backs and limbs. It will take years for some of them to recover but hopefully the tropical weather will see much of your garden regenerate.Good luck hope you can hang in there and keep going.

  7. It's just heartbreaking to see all the lovely plants so devastated. You had such a mature and full landscape I can see how you must avert your eyes at the now bare spots and thinness. It's painful to look at for those of us looking in, even more so for you who have lovingly tended these gardens. Still, plants are survivors and will do their best to regenerate quickly. I'm glad you did not lose all your plants, and am looking forward to seeing the new plantings that may come.

  8. Wow, that is really a mess! I think you are right, though, it will all return soon. I have many of the same plants that were devastated by the 2010 freezes, and yes, it was heartbreaking, but they are returning. I too lost much of the privacy and screening the garden once had. My garden no longer looks 6 years old. It is really a shame that you have lost so much shade, especially those huge tab trees. And your durantas were awesome pre-cyclone. At least your house is intact, right? We had an enormous oak tree drop on this house in a 2004 hurricane. Went through a 2nd story bedroom and landed in the 1st story foyer and dining room. Many homes in our area were damaged by oaks, which still remain on recommended hurricane-proof plant lists. Hmmm....

    I will mention again that I think you have the coolest native birds around.

  9. Just read your uk blog Bernieh ...sooo sorry for you losses the pictures look awfull, all your lovely plants, trees and shrubs but i'm so glad you all came out of it okay and that the house was too bad ..take care ..motherveggie xx

  10. Dear Birnie:My heart sank for you when I was going through your pictures,and oh, all those fallen beauties! Our hurrican season often brings some fear to us living in Florida.

    Is that white Bauhinia tree completely gone? What a shame! Hope the rest of trees can recover eventually. Best wishes, and it may actually give you some opportunities to try some other new plants on those bare spots?

  11. Bernie those scenes are heartbreaking. Your garden really copped a beating. Your trees were so beautiful. I hope the Tabebuia, the figs and lots of the others will eventually recover.

  12. Bernie, you really seemed to get the worst of the storm. I am so sorry to see the damage you suffered. thank you for posting the tree in bloom and then the result - it makes it all much clearer to see what you are talking about. I know that you (and the garden) will bounce back. Take care and do take some rests in the middle of all the busyness.

  13. My heart just hurts as I look at your photos. We had lost our entire yard in a 15 minute storm last June. I still can not look at the old photos.

  14. So sorry to see these pics of the devastation in your garden, it must be heart-breaking to see the damage, especially on those mature specimen trees. I'd cry my eyes out! My thoughts are with you and your garden as you repair and recover.

  15. aloha bernie

    yes those canopies will be missed i'm sure especially with those exotic birds. fortunately some of those trees you mentioned are relatively fast growers especially the white bauhinia...hope it comes back soon for you and those durantas are really fast even if you take cuttings they should do very well....hopefully you have a mulcher and make some lemonade from the lemons :) i wish you the best in your rebuilding projects.

  16. Hi Bernie

    Wow!! Your before and after photos are amazing! I didn't realize how destructive Cyclone Yasi was!. I hope you get your life back together soon.


  17. It looks like climate has really changed, havent heard of that strong typhoon in Australia. Your photos really look bad, but for us who gets more than 20 typhoons/year, that is ordinary. Maybe your garden suffered a lot because they are not really strong plants. When we have typhoons here, even the hardwoods break or fell. The consolations is that your plants are not really very delicate, and will soon be shooting again in a short time. Dont be worried, they will be upright soon and you will notice that you will have a new landscaping. It was just like having a haircut. The bad thing is it entails lots of manhours to look sane again.

  18. Bernie - there are no words!

    Seeing before & after shots really give us a sense of the devastation. I can't begin to imagine being in the middle of that cyclone. My heart goes out to you and yours....

  19. Dear Bernie, my heart aches for you. Our yard was destroyed by a tornado in 1990, and I know the hard work and long road to recovery that is in front of you. Loosing beautiful trees is so hard, because they take years to grow. Was your home damaged? I am glad that you are personally safe. Your garden will never be the same again, but that doesn't mean it won't be beautiful or even better. Take courage, one day at a time.

  20. OK, time to catch up with your comments. It's been hard to find the time to get onto my blog and catch up, so apologies to all who took the time to be so emphathetic and show such heartfelt concern! It's much apreciated.

    Diane sure is devastating to see the tall trees so decimated. As you say, hopefully many will return to their former glory.

    Flowerweaver ... yes I have been thinking quite a bit about re-planting but that will be a difficult job given the conditions along the gravel driveway.

    Floridagirl ... we were lucky there was only minor damage to the house. What a horrible time you must have had of it when that oak dropped right through to the first floor!! I can't imagine how devastating that would have been.

    Motherveggie, thank you for dropping by and leavin your kind comment. Hopefully there will be lots of re-growth on the trees and shrubs.

    Ami, yes my beautiful white Bauhinia is gone now. There was no saving it. When we were trimming it back we discovered termites had moved in and it had become almost a shell of itself so it was becoming quite dangerous in that position.

    Thank you Missy. I've certainly got my fingers crossed for the Tabs!

    Africanaussie ... we've been steadiy working at clearing the mess but the rain has interrupted our work quite a few times now so it's slow going.

    Tufa Girl ... my heart goes out to you. What a loss you suffered. I can completely understand why you can't look at the photos! It's heartbreaking stuff.

    Ms Rabbit. So glad you dropped by. It was lovely hearing from you again and thank you for your kind comment. We'll have to wait and see how the garden recovers once the cleaning up is finally finished. It will be an interesting year!

    Noel ... yes we have been doing some mulching but there's just too much debris to mulch it all! We'd end up with beds of mulch and nothing else, lol!

    Hello Ron. Thanks for your well wishes.

    Andrea, the plants all around the property are definitely strong plants but they just could not withstand the cyclonic winds that pounded on them for hours and hours. At times the winds reached 135 kilometres an hour and the plants really coped a beating!

    Thanks Shyrlene for your thoughtfulness.

    Deb, I do so appreciate your supportive comment. It's nice to hear from someone who's been through something similar and come out the other end of it all. I'm slowly coming out of the rather down and depressed state I was in throughout the days immediately following the cyclone. Cleaning up is certainly a cathartic exercise!

  21. dear bernie, i could weep for the garden. but thank goodness you werent harmed physically and i assume you house is ok? good luck for the cleanup and the phase, cheers, cm

  22. When I read about the storm heading to Australia, my heart sank because I know what it is like to be hit by such a monster. Looking at the photos of your garden reminds me so much of how our garden looked after Hurricane Katrina hit here. We had the same devastation. It has been five years and many of the trees have not filled out yet. After the clean up, which took weeks, I tried to keep the attitude that this was an opportunity to try new plants since we now had more sun in many areas that were shady before the storm hit. While there are many things about my pre-storm garden I miss, the garden I have now brings me as much pleasure as the old one did. I hope that you will find that same feeling.

    Always Growing

  23. Thanks, Catmint. The house did sustain some damage, but hopefully that can be fixed too. The clean-up is still in progress, but the end is in sight now.

    Jan, thank you so much for your comment. It's nice to know others have been through the same thing and have found some positives. The garden just looks awful right now as there's just so many holes and gaps ... I really do miss the tall trees. You're so right about the missing shade ... all of a sudden our lovely shady garden is thrust into full sun and I'm a little concerned for the ferns which were so happy in their shady homes. I'm looking forward to the day when I can look around our place and have that 'quite happy with my garden' feeling once more.

  24. Looking at your before and after images tells the story of the devastation. I am saddened by your loss of your beautiful trees. I have never lived where such mass loss occurs thankfully, but have seen it with hurricanes in the US. I hope you can think about that they will be on the mend, at least those that you might leave in place.

  25. Bernie~~
    During the teaching season I only get the chance to drop in a couple of times a month on gardeners so this is my first chance to see the destruction. I can hardly bear to look since this exact thing happened to my family and garden 2 years ago. My garden pictures from Hurricane Ike seem eerily the same as yours. My garden is hopefully recovering this year. The trees...some are lost for good. But for us,I think the 16 days without electricity eclipsed all of my tragic garden experiences. But our house had no flood waters inside and no roof or window damage so for that I am thankful.
    Be hopeful...much of the ground plants recover like Jack and his beanstalk!
    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  26. So sad to see the damage to all those amazing trees and plants. But I'm glad you are safe and the house didn't have much damage. Good luck as you deal with the aftermath--hope you have lots of help and that things start growing back quickly!

  27. Oh Bernie, I haven't had a chance to stop by your blog recently because of being busy at work. I'm so sorry to hear about all this mess you are having to deal with. I was glad you finished your report with some things that had come through okay and I hope that mother nature rebounds and things start growing back soon.

  28. I almost cried for you when I saw this post, and the destruction you have endured in your garden. I hope you will soon be able to get pleasure out of rebuilding the garden, though I know for now you are mourning your losses.

  29. I'm so sorry about your garden Bernie. I realized this past year the advantage of having a container garden. My plant losses were not as bad as yours because I was able to bring almost everything inside. Only my plants on the ground were the ones left to worry about and even with my much smaller garden, it was hard to protect them all.

    The clean-up and repairs will take time and you just have to take it one day at a time so as not to be overwhelmed. Unfortunately, we are used to such devastation and even then it never gets any easier. Andrea is right though in saying that you will eventually learn to love your new landscape.

  30. Oh Bernie!! How painful to see these images and know how the loss of so much of your garden must have broken your heart. We have had many wild storms this year that has left many broken trees in the surrounding area. I fear it will all just keep getting worse. I am so sorry for all your loss there. Sorry too that I have not been up to visiting lately. I am coming here after visiting your garden today Dec. 9th. Take care, Carol


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