Saturday, September 6, 2008, Hanna hath no fury, but a lot of rain

Saturday, September 06, 2008 Hanna hath no fury, but a lot of rain

…at least in Raleigh.

Hurricanes fascinate me. Not from the standpoint of a pending disaster, but rather from what it must have been like in the day before weather pundits. With knowledge of a pending disaster, the good citizens of Raleigh went to the market before the storm to buy hurricane French toast ingredients (eggs, milk, bread.) We must be prepared.

Often times, I imagine what it was like 100 years or so ago on a similarly beautiful late summer day with no sign of a much anticipated storm. Then – bam – the wind and the rain. They had no time to prepare. I suppose they were making bread anyway and getting their eggs and milk daily, so a special trip to the market wasn’t necessary. Auntie Em calling for Dorothy before a tornado comes to mind. If they had Doppler 5000, perhaps Dorothy could have save herself from a knock on the head!

Perhaps ignorance is bliss. They didn’t fret the week away wondering either. Was it going to hit us? Will it loose strength? Gain strength? Will it come at all? My new neighbors, renovating their new homestead, paid close attention to the pundits this week. Never in my life did I see a three gabled roof go up so fast!

Steve Bender, senior garden writer for Southern Living magazine and I relied on these weather pundits to help us make decisions of his pending visit to see some great Raleigh gardens, visit the JC Raulston Arboretum, and attend the Raleigh Garden Club induction into the Raleigh Hall of Fame. Knowing it was only a tropical storm and gone by Saturday afternoon we felt he could sandwich the trip in just in time between Hanna and Ike. Ike is looking a bit more threatening. Hopefully, he will hold off until Steve gets safely home on Thursday afternoon.

Measuring 4.8 inches of rain in less than 24 hours – I’m fulfilled, as is Falls Lake – again. We needed this rain – particularly, our ground water needed recharging. In anticipation of so much rain, I emptied my 250 gallon rain harvester. I also left the bottom spigot open so as not to collect all that was anticipated. I have four drain spouts, but one harvester. With a roof my size I calculated that drain spout would service 1,000 gallons of water. I really, really, really wanted to guarantee it was flowing away from the house.

When I got up this morning, Hanna was still raining on us, but the worse was over. As such, I wondered outside to close off the valve so that I could harvest 250 gallons or so. It didn’t rain enough to fill 250 gallons, but with nearly 5 inches, I doubted I would need this water for anything until the next predicted event.

Last year this time through February of this year, I was our annoying area weather pundit. I have no means to machines to make forecasts. I don’t even own a farmers almanac. I do have confidence in statistics. Armed with 100 years of data, I realized it was improbably that we would have a severe drought 2 years in a row. This stat gave me confidence allowing me to pump up fellow gardeners. Still, as gardeners were fretting over gardening as we know it, wanting to cancel long held traditions of plant sales and generally wanting to lift their skirts and go home, I preached that when the rains returned and they will, we need to be the example to the community. Success! Plant sales went on, people still gardened.

While I had some success here, I failed in communicating the other truth the stats provided. I did preach it, but since it was unfathomable to even consider not having a drought the following year, knowing we could have an exceptionally wet year was even a more ridiculous thought.

So to justify their going forward with their plant sale, the Raleigh Garden Club decided to add a heavier education aspect to the plant sale. This was admirable. The slant however, was drought tolerant plants. Now I wonder how many losses occurred due to too much water for 2008. Oh well…someday, we will go back to old fashion gardening with prudent waterwise designs. It is how I garden and what I design for others. These designs make since. Gardens should be designed for the area rain fall – selecting plants with a wide range of tolerance. Sticking to just drought tolerant plants will put your garden in as much disarray as sticking to just oasis loving plants. Gardening at the extremes can be challenging too…unless you live in an extreme areas. We do not. We average around 44 inches a year. We are just as likely to get 50% more rain than we are to get 50% less. Plant a garden that can sustain itself. As a minimum, design a garden that can sustain with harvested water – not relying on the city or a well to make your garden grow.

The plant choices available to make for a lush life are vast. Learn a little, plan and plant a lot.

Helen Yoest (Philbrook)

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