Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hail Resistant Plants? by Gardener Dave

There are no hail-proof plants (cast iron plants?). There also may be no such thing as a “hail-resistant” plant. Their survivability depends on the severity of the hailstorm. Factors like hail size, hail-fall density, duration, accompanying wind and rain all enter into the damage equation.

I escaped the severe storm that wreaked havoc north and south on either side of Kipling St. on the night of July 20th, but my yard didn’t escape the swath of hail that crossed the eastern flank of Green Mountain on August 9th. It was not large hail and “microbursts” that caused damage in this area, but instead, relatively small hail a half inch and less with a high density that lasted around 15 minutes, along with strong NW wind and heavy rain.

After surveying damage the next day, I noted that some plants withstood the storm better than others. There were, as always in storms, areas that were protected to various degrees by house eaves, trees, etc. I am quite sure of the storm’s main direction, because my longish grass in the back yard was all lying down toward the S.E., and the hail came in 2-3 yards under my N.W.-facing back patio.

My trees seemed to take it quite well, although there were a lot of leaves on the ground. Perhaps the fact that the leaf canopies were very dense this year - due to a lot of available moisture - helped a lot. The majority of leaves on my front lawn and driveway were from my neighbor’s soft maple. My young redbud tree took it quite well, as did my linden and apple trees. Many leaves fell from my locust, but it still looks OK overall. Larger hail would doubtless have done much more tree damage.

Of course, all soft-tissue plants, such as begonias, impatience (including New Guinea), geraniums, and petunias were pretty well stripped. Also damaged heavily were daisies, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, and hostas. My canna lilies in front were spared, but only due to overhanging S.E. house eaves. I am not a vegetable gardener, but I can imagine how badly tomatoes, pumpkins, melons and most veggie plants must have suffered elsewhere.

Interestingly, my best survivors were the agastache, diascia, calibrachoa, (low) dianthus, most roses, ornamental grass, smoke bush, burning bush, astilbe, ivy (English), salvia, coneflower, and snapdragon. Peony leaves were badly scarred but intact otherwise. I am especially happy that my new Agastache ava and Agastache blue fortune, were still upright and blooming, just losing a few leaves. (The Agastache leaves do smell nice and “licorice-y” when ground up with the leaf vacuum though!)

Have we have seen the last of our summer hail? One never knows here. We just have to keep cleaning up and hope for a long, quiet, extended growing season the rest of this summer and fall !

Gardener Dave