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!

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