I got off lightly (but I’m not so sure about the plants)

I have discovered there’s one advantage in having stormy weather for weeks. Everything in my garden that was still standing despite being really vulnerable (the rowan) came down before Big Daddy struck yesterday.

Even so, you can never be sure, and the truly terrifying shipping forecast for the Irish Sea – ‘South veering southwest storm 10 to hurricane force 12, decreasing 6 to gale 8. High or very high becoming rough or very rough. Showers. Moderate or poor…’ – had me bringing the entire log pile into the house and metaphorically battening down the hatches, the actual battens all having been used to tether down the cold frame.

I must admit to liking storms. When I was a child I once had to be removed from the roof of the croft house (you could get on it easily because it hunkered down into the hill at the back) during a thunderstorm. I get this mad tendency from my parents, who would wake us up if night-time lightning was particularly good or the snow was falling beautifully. Storms can be exciting and even aesthetically pleasing – but yesterday was different. It moved rather too quickly from being exciting to being downright scary.

I consoled myself with the thought that the house, being almost 200 years old, has weathered storms like this before – it would have been a youngish 40 for the infamous Royal Charter storm, another Irish Sea hurricane-force-gust special, and it evidently came through that intact. (But it probably didn’t have a greenhouse in 1859.) And my stove would come in useful if there were power cuts which, amazingly, we barely had in the end. Even though the storm seemed to go on for ever.

The first thing I noticed this morning was that it was difficult to see out.

salty window

The windows, and this is a side window rather than one in the direct line of fire, were caked in salt. The bay leaves have even scratched lines in it as they were lashed about in the gale. If the glass was like that, what about the plants?

It was with some trepidation that I set foot in the garden. I started by taking some leftovers to the compost bin – the lid had blown off and the compost area was full of feathers from the old pillow I’d emptied into it. Retrieved lid, ignored feathers, turned round to check slates (AOK) and noticed the effect of the salt on the skimmia hedge which masks the alluring view of the oil tank

skimmia hedge, hm

and, of course, the small heap of Western Red Cedar logs that didn’t quite make it into the log store. Forgot about them, have remembered now – so the Stripping of the Skimmia at least served some purpose (but quite what purpose the Browning of the Hellebores and the Smashing of the Snowdrops served has escaped me completely). And my ancient rosemary, on borrowed time anyway since I had to tie it up with blue baler twine, has been ripped apart. That was roughly it. Phew.

Then I had to go into Harlech for a meeting. Harlech is all just over 5 miles away. I was late.

I was late because every tree surgeon in the area – including my own friendly Mr Tree Surgeon Man – was out unblocking roads and, in the case of the one I know, looking extremely harassed.  There were trees down everywhere, and it was noticeable that the pines and cypresses had suffered most. We have a lot of trees in this village but ours have, by and large, survived – though we do have three cypresses currently being held up by a power line, rather worryingly. And even within the Harlech area there were places which looked almost untouched, whereas other woods, parts of woods and woody gardens were almost flattened, with tree trunks looking more like matchsticks than big trees. Very strange. Poor Harlech. All my sympathies to anyone dealing with a similar situation.

Now we’re bracing ourselves for another storm, though I gather rain will be the dominant feature this time; mind you, the Met Office forecast has a lovely little snow symbol on it too. I suppose it might wash some of the salt off…

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28 thoughts on “I got off lightly (but I’m not so sure about the plants)

  1. Pauline

    So sorry you caught the storm last night, it was horrendous wasn’t it, but very glad that you are safe and sound, complete with wood for the stove, most important. What a shame your poor hellebores and snowdrops got caught in the blast, there I was thinking they could stand up to anything.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Insane weather, isn’t it? I did have hopes for the snowdrops, but I think it’s the salt as much as anything else. Poor wee things!

      Reply
  2. Janet/Plantaliscious

    Poor skimmia hedge. The salt-laden winds are brutal, aren’t they. I am still learning about them. We were very lucky, the wind direction meant we were out of the direct line of fire, so to speak, and it was just the greenhouse that copped it. Again. I think polycarbonate may be the way to go, I hate picking up shards of glass from the borders.

    As for Harlech, wow, I suppose it would have born the brunt of the wind, but even so. That will have re-shaped the landscape rather dramatically. I feel for the people who have gardens ripped to shreds by uprooted trees, hope nobody hurt. I was scared that one of the willows in the park next door to us would topple and land on our extension, but just small branches this time thank goodness. And no power cut lasting longer than a few minutes, although our freeview box got trashed 😦

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I am amazed that my greenhouse came through intact, but I think the winds were chancy (they’re just starting up again, happily not so badly). The glass is a nightmare, you’re quite right – had mine gone, I’m sure I’d have thought about poly.

      I think it’s the shallowness of the roots that’s the main factor. I always think of my Western Red Cedar(s) as having shallow roots, just because one of them threw out a root I could trip over, but they’ve grown up in this sort of weather in their native habitat and must be very firmly tethered.

      Reply
  3. Dobby

    Traws closed at 3.30 yesterday. Took nearly an hour to get home. Fallen tree didn’t help but full marks to council who cleared it very quickly. Getting hit by flying debis was a bit frightening! Home to no power. Back at 5.30 today. About to go and shower.
    Found a new use for wood burner. Heats water in saucepan on top for tea. Lovely.
    Garden OK so far thankfully. Don’t even want to think about the rain and snow due tomorrow!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Blimy – but I’m not surprised, if it was anything like the Harlech area there’d have been trees all over. I suppose at least – with it being light – the trees would have been visible. I’ve friends in Llanbedr who are still off power – like you, they’ve been using their stove. Not sure there’s enough headspace on top of mine!

      Reply
  4. Anna

    Oh dear Kate – sorry to gear about your snowdrops and hellebores – just as they were at their best/coming to their best 😦 That hedge sadly looks unfit for camouflage purposes at present but is there any chance of it leafing out again? A tree fell across our lane so we were blocked in this morning but other than twiggy deposits everywhere fortunately no other serious damage to report. What a night!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I know, sniffle, sniffle… I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the hedge but I may have to do some rethinking. Tree surgeons must be seriously overworked – any chance of you getting some logs at least? I’ve been collecting huge amounts of kindling, aka your twiggy deposits.

      Ah, that was a good gust. Here we go again? Nah, don’t think so…

      Reply
  5. Cathy

    Oh Kate, what a mixture of ‘blessings’. I was wondering how your part of Wales had got on and now I have heard from you and Janet and Dobby I know…. As you say it would have been impossible to predict what the effects of the storm would be – and who could have envisaged things like the scratches on your windows? It was certainly fortunate your rowan had already met its demise before last night. From what you say, the long term outlook for the flattened woodlands and gardens in Harlech must be heartbreaking. I would be sorry to see my hellebores and snowdrops flattened, but hey – they would grow again for next year. Sleep tight and keep safe tonight, Kate.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Quite on the rowan – it was so close to the house and could have done some serious damage, quite apart from bringing down the retaining wall it sat above. Hope you’re all right – and you are 100% correct about the hellebores etc – trees are a completely different matter.

      Reply
  6. hillwards

    Our snowdrops have been flayed to within an inch of their lives too, and the daffodils are now lying rather flat. I found that the Delphinium requienii that I grew from seed last year had snapped off at its base, which is particularly sad as all the others seem to have vanished too. Ho hum, same again next year, then! Hope the next bout leaves you safe still, and the weather turns soon!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      My daffs seem rather resilient, but most of them are only about 6 inches tall and I assume that helps. Your poor Delphinium, that’s tragic!

      Fingers crossed for your continuing safety too – today sounds as though it might also be a bit mad. Keep warm!

      Reply
  7. alderandash

    Hope it calms down soon…it wasn’t nearly that bad here – another tree down in the garden, but mainly I think because the ground is now so soggy that there was just nothing for it’s roots to hold on to. But we’re getting to the point now where the weaker stuff has already blow down earlier in the winter! Still – we haven’t had Force 12 winds like you have. (Force 12? 12?! Can’t even imagine that…)

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m in exactly that position – did quite a bit of tree work last year, as well as the contribution from the weather. But there’s an old cherry I’m watching like a hawk – it’s in the most sheltered position which is probably why it’s still standing.

      Reply
  8. VP

    So pleased to see you and Karen blogging, plus Dobby and Janet commenting. We experienced the blast at Poole (visiting NAH’s aunt as it was her birthday) which was scary enough and you guys had it so much worse! The road home was closed owing to a fallen tree, at least the other one was open so we only had a minor diversion along the way.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Sounds as though you may have had some wind yourself last night, or did it not get to you? Bonkers here again, but apparently improving next week. Who knows, we might even get out in the garden; P and I are allegedly moving plants into their new positions on Mon. We’ll see…

      Reply
      1. VP

        Yes, it was very blowy – the trees next to the house were howling and I kept peering nervously through the window most of the night convinced that the garden would be blown away, only to find this morning that only a few minor twigs and branches have actually blown down. I guess we’re pretty lucky, though I’m a bit miffed that snowdrop visiting has been put on hold for the second weekend in a row.

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          Nearly had a telegraph pole complete with Scottish Power’s cables and Cyngor Gwynedd’s streetlight in my garden yesterday, so today has been enlivened by hammering, odd bangs and multilingual swearing. No visible change in angle of pole. Oh well.

          I think my snowdrops are recovering…!

  9. hoehoegrow

    What mad and crazy weather ! It takes all your courage to go out and check the state of everything in the garden afterwards! Weirdly, our windows were exactly the same this morning, covered in salt. We are 30 miles from the sea ! The wind was terrible and blew over a huge conifer in next door’s garden which came crashing through our beech hedge ! Waiting for a man with a chainsaw to come and log it, as we can’t even open the gate into the orchard !

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Wow! THIRTY miles! Good luck getting your chainsawing done, and being able to move about…

      (And that’s another conifer story – when I replant I certainly won’t consider conifers or pines. I think I’ll stick to just replacing the rowan.)

      Reply
  10. croftgarden

    I was thinking about you and I’m pleased that you survived without too much damage. You will be surprised at how many of your plants will survive, just give them a chance.
    It’s been windy here, but for once we’ve escaped the really strong winds.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m sure you’re right – the snowdrops do seem to be recovering. Maybe the crocuses will perk up a bit soon (but we’ve more rainy weather forecast for next week). Glad you’re in one piece – I was wondering!

      Reply
  11. angiesgardendiaries

    What a heck of a time the south have been having – the reports on the news is just heart breaking. I’m sure your garden will fight it’s way back to full strength – stay safe with what’s too come and I do hope you all get a break in the bad weather sooner rather than later.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I thin k we had our break, but at least we managed to get some gardening done! Admittedly, mostly clearing up – but hey, I’m not complaining…

      Reply
  12. Christina

    Your post is very brave and positive Kate, the conditions sound terrible, we often have strong winds here but nothing like you’ve just experienced. The hedge is incredible, I’ve never seen leaves ripped off like that. Hope the second storm has now passed and you’re still safe and warm.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      The more I’ve been driving around the area, the more I realise that we’ve been comparatively lucky. But the gaps will take ages to fill – though I remember the big 1987 storm (I was a baby bookseller in London), and how quickly we got used to the new landscape, and how quickly things grew up.

      We do have a new and bizarre hazard, though it doesn’t directly affect me or my garden since we’re below 500feet and well away from the immediate area – avalanches on Snowdon.

      Reply

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