Let me preface this by saying no, no one died in our house or immediate friends or family as a result of this week’s storm – “hurricane” Sandy. So we’re all thankful for that. And we did not suffer any damage to the new house. We didn’t even lose power so we are certainly blessed.
So onto what did go wrong as a result of the storm. The house and property actually held up well. We had non-stop rain for a week and nothing flooded. Knock on wood the sump pump held up and the exterior grading, while poor in some spots, still managed to keep most of the water away from the house. With all the wind we had, one could hardly tell inside the house and its ten in thick walls. The house proved to be very solid, as one would expect.
At one point the rain barrel blew over because I had emptied it a week or two ago, so it lacked its water ballast to keep it upon its perch. I didn’t think much of it but it turned out to cause some damage when it flew off. Christine noticed a plant branch laying in the driveway. Sadly it was our little Red Tip bush that we had planted outside my studio door. When we bought him he was bush sized and then he died back to a very small damaged size, losing much of his bulk in a stormy break off of his main trunk years ago. Then he sprouted back a little bit. We brought him over from our old house because he was so anemic we figured the new owners would have just dug him up and thrown him out. He seemed really happy this summer outside my studio door. He even sprouted new branches and leaves when he wasn’t busy greeting visitors aside the driveway.
So I was sad to get the note that what was left of him was lying broken in the driveway. All I can guess is the rain barrel fell off and landed on our beloved bush and as it rolled towards the driveway it ripped him in half.
Well, we came to the consensus that there must be a way to at least try to save or little guy. Christine looked it up online and found an article on getting roots to develop on plant stems. Obviously I’m not a horticulturist, and I’m too lazy on a Saturday night to look up the right terms so we’ll use layman’s terms here. Yes, I know if this truly was a cool, hip educational blog I’d have it all outlined and you’d be posting this stuff up on you blog. But alas after a long day of painting and doing whatnot, I’m gonna mail it in tonight, therefore you can put up with my overview of propagating plants from plants by way of the words that I can think of off the top of my head. My spleen hurts too so there’s that.
Anyway I digress. Back to making plants from plants. Luckily the weather has been super cool and wet so our little bush was fine just chillin’ out in the driveway all week. What was left of our guy was the main “trunk” about foot long, and about a dozen leafy sprouts. Red tip bushes are really woody which I think is both good and bad. Good cause they’re solid and woody once they get big. Bad cause they are woody and can split in half if when they’re small and weakened, which this bush has done now a couple of times in its lifetime. The article we found online (no I don’t have the link but Google “how to propagate Red Tip Photinia” and you’ll find it). We picked up some powdered rooting hormone at the garden center. The article mentions sterile potting soil, but who the hell knows what that is, as well as perlite needed to plant the shrubs in. I just used regular seed starter potting soil. It was an unopened bag so that’s sterile enough for me.
I filled three pots, that I scrounged up from the overstuffed garage, with the Miracle Gro seed starting mix. It had little white styrafoam balls in it and was light and fluffy so it would be a nice comfy place for my poor plant to grow new roots….hopefully. Now the article said sterilize the shears with 9 parts water 1 part bleach….I simply washed mine with a sponge and some dish washing liquid soap. And no I didn’t sharpen my shears like the article said. I’m not even sure I know how to sharpen sheers let alone have the tools to do so.
I read the article like three times and I read the instructions on the powdered rooting hormone, and honestly, I’m not sure I understood half of what they were saying. So I winged it. I assessed my broken little friend and determined that the little bit that was broken off from the main broken bit would suffice as one plant. So I took my sheers and snipped the end at an angle and dipped that end in the powder. That little bit had about a handful of fronds so…hopefully it’ll turn into something. Then plopped the little branch down into the soil and watered it a little bit more (I pre-moistened the soil, though it was so light and fluffy the water basically just ran through it.)
A couple of things to keep in mind, I put the rooting powder in a disposable cup so that I didn’t contaminate all the powder with my branches. I guess the whole process is about keeping things hospital like. I’m so so in that department so good luck little plants.
I then cut the remaining large branch into two small segments about six inches long, each with a few clusters of leaves. These were bigger so I notched the woody stem about 3/4″ up from the angle I cut at the bottom. I guess this might prove a spot from which roots can grow. I then dipped them in powder, shook off the excess and dropped them into my virgin potting soil. A little more water and that was that.
I negotiated some space on the window sill in the wife’s studio for our little friends. We’ll set them up there facing east, just above where they were firmly planted in the ground, outside, just a week ago. We’ll tent them with some plastic wrap to create a humid little micro climate around the plants, and the wife will hopefully mist them regularly. I don’t know how long it takes but we’ll see soon…cause if it doesn’t work we’ll know right away I’m assuming.
The saddest thing for me personally though was what I saw as I went to work Tuesday morning (the “day after” the storm). I looked around as I walked out to my car and didn’t really notice any damage. I don’t know what made me think of it but I ran back to the house to get something I forgot and I glanced over to the front yard. Something was missing. I was quick to sadly notice my favorite “dead” tree had been knocked over by the storm. See when we first walked the land a few years ago I really thought it, and the other dead standing timber on our water-logged piece of paradise, added a really nice visual detail to the property. We lost one big dead tree earlier this year out by the pond, but the one we lost this week was my personal favorite. I wanted to square up my studio so that I could look out the window and see it, at one time. It was in this tree that we saw our first red-headed woodpecker, soon after we moved into the house. I knew it would fall down someday but I didn’t think it would be so soon.
I guess I should be happy the tree didn’t fall on anyone. And trust me if I thought it was a danger to anyone I would have dropped it myself. In the end it lay down quite simply and softly in the meadow grass. It didn’t even fall into the yard so there’s nothing for me to have to clean up. It will just lay there and the earth will swallow it back up. I have no idea what kind of tree it was, but it looks like it must have been pretty old since it’s trunk is about a foot or two wide.
To most it was just a random dead tree that should be cut down but to me it was visual texture and it added history and context to the land and ultimately the house…ultimately to our project as a whole. It was one of the first things that made me feel at home here, something recognizable from day one…something that was here throughout the process overlooking our home. And now it just lays there, still with us but no longer standing proud keeping a watchful eye on my boys and my escapades in the yard battling mother nature. Our yard actually has a little kink in its perimeter just to make way for our tree friend. This is the second big tree like this we’ve lost, so I guess it’s inevitable that they will all go someday. Their bleached grey trunks no longer contrasting against the emerging green canopy of Spring days or illuminated by the fading orange light of Autumn sunsets. I guess that’s one of the perks of living out here, and why the land appealed to us in a way one can’t really put into words. To most sane people it’s just a dead tree to cut down, to me it was something else. Well now it lay out there and I recon I can mow a little tick free path to it. I’ll have a spot to rest on hot Summer days when I’m working in the yard.