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what the hail brought: garden reflections


I’VE LECTURED AND WRITTEN for years about what the garden teaches—life lessons that lately I call its parables. The garden, with its greater backdrop of nature, is my companion, and also my spiritual guide. Tuesday afternoon May 21, 2013, with NPR on in the background reporting tragic loss in Oklahoma, nature added an exclamation point for me to its most powerful teachings of all: Nothing lasts, and nobody knows for certain what’s coming even one tiny moment into the future. Kaboom! Suddenly, the sky outside was falling. What the local hail taught.

Each day in the garden reminds me that I am blessed, even when it is raining ping-ping balls of ice from on high, as in the video clip above. (Try watching it full screen by clicking the Vimeo logo; for perspective, it’s shot through a window and the pond in the distance is more than 25 feet from where I was standing, in awe.)

BEFORE FIVE concurrent weather warnings converged overhead that afternoon to form the hailstones and, eerily, a small tornado, I had been thinking about Oklahomans, including the Shawnee garden club I’d lectured to in 1999. It was the first time I’d ever seen the formidable red clay up close—I think I actually said, “Is that soil?” before I got hold of myself and my manners. Also on my mind was Dee Nash, the “Red Dirt Ramblings” garden writer who always has a smile and a kind word. Even this last week; even among her tears.

“After tornadoes come blue skies,” Dee wrote the other day, sounding the resilience and faith I suspect she gleaned not just from scripture, but also in her own impressive backyard. “Bad things happen,” she said. “Our hearts may break, but it is our courage and spirit in the face of these challenges that matters.”

hosta after a hailstormMy neighbors and I were spared anything more than dashed vegetation and washed-out roads and driveways. No, I didn’t like watching helplessly while the garden became a giant pile of chiffonade; didn’t relish carting away four wheelbarrows full of tender growth and fresh leaves from just a single bottlebrush buckeye shrub, or seeing even the linear, tough garlic foliage shredded and ribbon-like, and mulch redeposited far across lawns.

As much as it causes consternation, though, it’s just not important—and what could I have done, anyhow? Much of it will outgrow its misshapen current state of semi-undress in time.

But listening to the news, and watching out the window for those few minutes, I felt as if I were being delivered an especially in-your-face reminder that no matter how mightily we humans wield our big brains, we don’t ever, in fact, have the upper hand. We are not Masters of the Universe.

In fact, some of what our brains have perpetrated is making nature sick, and angry. Things have changed, climate deniers. (I will shut up now re: politics, promise. But really.)

saturday june 1, 2013 plans

MOVING ON: As a gardener, I am a professional improviser and do-over specialist. We’ve had 7ish pounding inches of rain and counting in a few days, besides the hail, and temperatures fell back into the 30s. To try to guarantee you a great visit Saturday [June 1, 2013], as much as anything can be guaranteed, I quickly re-invented the Open Day and giant rare plant sale by Broken Arrow Nursery, into a day with free lectures and the sale and more, like this. There are three other un-hailed-upon gardens open nearby, too. Come say hello, and make a day of local garden visiting and learning. I’ll be the one in the extra-muddy boots who’s still smiling. Hey, at least we finally got some rain, right?

CategoriesNature
  1. Celia Rosencrans says:

    I used these quotes from your website for my facebook page. If ever there was any truth, this is it! I did reference where I got them from. Hope you don’t mind.

    “After tornadoes come blue skies,” Dee wrote the other day, sounding the resilience and faith I suspect she gleaned not just from scripture, but also in her own impressive backyard. “Bad things happen,” she said. “Our hearts may break, but it is our courage and spirit in the face of these challenges that matters.” But listening to the news, and watching out the window for those few minutes, I felt as if I were being delivered an especially in-your-face reminder that no matter how mightily we humans wield our big brains, we don’t ever, in fact, have the upper hand. We are not Masters of the Universe.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Celia. I’m sure Dee Nash won’t mind being quoted and I don’t, either.

      Hi, Deborah. Well, I’m cutting mine back judiciously, teasing out the shattered leaves and leaving any potential ones at the base to grow. They look crazy, but at least they have some foliage to photosynthesize with. Now all my other big leaves plants are another story — cutting them to the ground, big masses of bold groundcover. We shall see!

  2. Deborah B says:

    Thanks for your wonderful post, Margaret. And I’m so sorry about the hail damage. I had a hail ‘event’ 4 years ago right before my garden was on a local tour, and it left the hosta leaves a mess. That hail was half the size of yours. And the hostas don’t just push out new leaves – you have to look at the damage all summer. Thanks also for the link to the congressional climate change page. I signed up.

  3. Julie Kane says:

    So sorry to see this, Margaret. I was having a small sculpture delivered for the front garden in all that rain when the tornado warning came through. So there we were, me, two burly muscle-men and two large, wet dogs, cowering in my increasingly moist cellar while you were filming the hail. Here in Hillsdale, we seem to have been spared the worst of it.

    Want to dig some NOID hostas for your place?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Pat. My tomatoes are stily indoors — every time I go to plant them it hails or gets to 38F or something. :)

      Hi, Julie. Cowering sounds like a smart idea considering what was going on outside!

  4. Pat Meadows says:

    Hi Margaret – We live in northern Maine. We had hail too – it killed all my tomatoes. Deader than doornails! Fortunately, I still had spare plants in pots. I’ve transplanted those out now, and I hope we don’t have hail again for a long while. I don’t have any more spares! It wasn’t the largest hail I had ever seen, but I haven’t seen larger hail often, that’s for sure, maybe only once or twice. It went on a while too. We had something like your 7″ of rain as well, over about a week. But I’m happy about the rain. It had been very dry. We always are mindful of the danger of forest fire here; we live in the woods.
    Pat

  5. Sally says:

    Wow, I needed that wonderful attitude today
    We have had so much rain it’s been impossible to get out in the garden and I was getting grumpy
    But in the bigger scheme of things you’re right
    “It’s not that important”

    Thank You!!

  6. Patti McGee says:

    Margaret ….greetings from Charleston,s.c. …..although my gardening experience, in terms of climate and some plant material ,is very different from yours….I read your blog regularly…we are well into summer, here…….I had a great Open day in my garden yesterday…..and Laura Palmer told me about the recent meeting of the Open day committee…and your wonderful participation ……the GardenConservancy had been a. Very important part of my gardening life for many years…..with gardeners like you and Marco…leading the way… It will continue to have an important influence…..thank you so much for all you do….. And I am a huge fan of ” away to garden”. Patti

    1. margaret says:

      Thank you, Patti McGee — and so nice to “see” you here and receive your kind words. Yes, love Open Days and have benefited from them immensely in terms of learning to look at my garden more closely through others’ eyes.

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