By Jodi Torpey
For gardeners in the Mountain region, this spring has been as exerting as an arm wrestling match. In May, just as the lilacs started blooming and the trees were a leafy green, Mother Nature changed the rules.
First she unleashed a massive snowstorm, followed by several nights of below-freezing temperatures. Just nine days later she sent tornados, thunderstorms and pounding hail. Heaps and heaps of hail.
Despite the damage to landscapes, there’s a silver lining in those thunderclouds. Unlike an end-of-summer squall that pummels tomatoes into sauce, there’s still time for trees to push new leaves, perennials to bounce back, and annuals to be replanted.
One of the secrets to gardening in the Mountain region is learning how to bend, not break, during storms. That’s as true for gardens as it is for the gardeners who tend them.
After the tornado sirens stopped wailing, I stepped onto the back patio, and my eyes immediately welled up. It wasn’t because I was about to cry; it was because the container of hail-battered oniony chives had unleashed all their powerful perfume at once!
The picture-perfect perennial bed was flattened. Rose canes were stripped, iris leaves tattered, and the lemon balm leveled.
The good news about this garden’s beat-down is the plants bounce back in just a few weeks. One reason is healthy gardens recover faster from this kind of early-season damage. After the initial cleanup, all they need is watering and a light fertilizing to give plants a little boost.
I avoid planting delicate ornamentals, or those with large leaves, because they shred so easily in hailstorms. The tough daylilies sit next to a fence meant to shield the foliage; however, the size of the hailstones and the angle of the pelting were too much this time.
It’s important to pick up all the leaf litter to foil insect pests that want to hide there. Trimming the standing foliage helps plants recuperate faster too.
It’s hard to believe, but in less than two weeks the daylilies were as perky as ever. They rebounded with time, a little water and some sunshine.
Hail is a fact of life for gardeners living in the Mountain region, but you can plant ahead for less damage. When making planting choices, look for native perennials adapted to our region’s wild weather.
Also, select plants with narrow leaves -- such as yarrow and ornamental grasses -- that can withstand hail. Other hail-resistant perennials in my landscape include lavenders, salvias, sedums, hens-and-chicks, as well as shrubs such as serviceberry, butterfly bush, and even lilacs.
How do you handle hail in your landscape?