Mourning After Irma

Like a drunken lumberjack, the powerful eye of Hurricane Irma roared down our street.  The destruction to the landscape was unprecedented.

We have endured hurricanes that brushed us with similar paths; Andrew in 1992, Jeanne, Frances and Charley in 2004.  Each time they knocked out power for over a week. Trees leaned and weak branches snapped. But this is the first time since Donna in 1960 that Fort Myers endured a category 3 hurricane with gusts over 130 miles per hour. (Naples recorded 142 MPH.)

Just seeing one large tree blown over can be shocking.  But witnessing thousands of trees snapped, uprooted and killed by winds is stunning. We gardeners appreciate the fact that trees are living, breathing things and it pains us to see so many formerly healthy, valuable trees cut up, piled up and hauled away.

Other structures that could not stand: Church steeples, fences, sheds, lanais, billboards, stoplights. Sporadic tornadoes twisted chain link fences and unscrewed concrete light poles.

Because I am in the horticulture industry I took many photographs of greenhouses, shade houses and nurseries that were mangled and stripped of their shade cloth, fiberglass roofs and walls. One customer asked that I take down the photos I posted on Facebook of their nursery in distress. I immediately cooperated, realizing what message that could send. We understand that these structures can be rebuilt and re-roofed and the nursery is back up and running. But to the general public, it could look like the business was destroyed.

Loosing one crop is bad enough when you are a bedding plant grower. If you can find seedlings or grow a new bunch from seed or cuttings, you can grow a new crop in 10 or 12 weeks. But for tree and shrub nurseries, or foliage plant growers, their crops will take years to replace.

If this were just our street or our neighborhood, it will take months to clean up and get back to normal. But Lee and Collier counties will be scarred for years.