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20 days past Irma

September 29, 2017
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The beautiful flora and fauna of our Southwest Florida area are now slowly showing signs of real recovery.

One of the saddest palm trees I see nowadays is the big showy Bismarckia. They stood their ground well as the high winds and slashing rains beat them in their relentless fury. The storm, long gone now, has left them standing with a few tattered fronds, barely waving in the breeze. They just look like we feel when we have "been through the ringer" - somewhat bedraggled, but still standing.

This trees are, of course, lucky that they was not knocked down and stripped of their leaves as so many palms were.

There are so many reasons why one tree, such as our many coconut palms, only medium wind tolerant, did not crash. I know of 8 coconut trees 25 feet tall, and all in a line, just no damage and full of coconuts, every one. They were not protected by any other horticulture. Malayan coconut?

Queen palms, which many people think are problematic, did well. I watched two young queens throughout the storm, as they were thrashed with wind and rain, about 15 feet tall and skinny trunked, just go with the flow. No close protection either.

Hong Kong orchids, not real great storm survivors, did not fare well, nor did the pretty little Jatropha tree.

What were Mother Nature and Irma thinking, tearing out the mighty oaks? Did the recent rains and wet soil help with their demise? Maybe they were all just too old and needed to be replaced? One never knows.

Trees that just toppled over, exposing their root balls, were everywhere. Some still are. Yes, it is possible to save a toppled tree, but you probably did not know how. You could have kept the root ball covered and damp, while you figured out who to ask for help.

Too late now? Maybe. Too many trees and things to know for this column.

Residents will be able to get some professional answers Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Riverland Nursery on Palm Beach Boulevard (Rt. 80) in Fort Myers. Reservations can be made for the 10 a.m. program entitled "Plant and tree care following a hurricane."

Register for this program by calling 239-639-5555.

Patience is the word for now. Cleaning up takes time. There are still Lee County residents without electricity, regular food and water. Help when you are able - it is not too late!

Happy replacement gardening till we meet again!

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. For more about the club, visit



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