November 1, 2011

A Freak Snowstorm and What Happened to my Farm

It was big news late last week that a powerful storm was approaching the northeast and that was no exaggeration.  Now, unfortunately, this storm’s aftermath is big news, with widespread damage to trees and bushes and many thousands of people without electricity in frigid temperatures.  This freak storm hit when most trees still had their leaf canopies.  The snow was very wet and extremely heavy, causing trees to bend and split and branches to snap and break, taking electric lines down with them.

Here at the farm, chores are performed according to an established schedule, which is followed year after year.  No one anticipated being dumped on by a foot of snow in October.  Many of my tropical plants were still outdoors, as a new hoop house for their winter storage is nearing completion.  My crew had taken precaution for heavy frost, not snow, by draping those plants with plastic sheeting.  The boxwood hedging was scheduled to receive its burlap wrapping during the weeks before Thanksgiving, which would tuck the shrubs away nicely for the harsh winter.  This storm really opened my eyes to the fact that we just cannot rely on what we’re used to as the “norm” for weather anymore.  I want to thank my grounds crew for all of their hard work leading up to this storm and especially those who were able to help over the weekend during their days off.  Unfortunately, there is now so much more work to do!

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I keep hearing reports about how badly trees and property were damaged as a result of this recent storm.  In New York City’s lovely Central Park, they are counting more than 1,000 trees ruined.  My friend, Gregory Long, CEO of The New York Botanical Garden sent out the following letter concerning the devastation to the landscape of that National Historic Landmark.

Dear Friends:

The unexpected snowstorm on Saturday hit NYBG hard. The combined force of snow and high winds struck trees in full leaf across the Garden's landscape, tearing limbs from large trees and crushing smaller specimens. Our initial assessment shows that thousands of trees have sustained some degree of damage. A complete appraisal will take weeks, as much of the damage is high in the canopies of trees 100 feet tall or more.

Approximately 15% of the 15,000 trees in the Garden’s Thain Family Forest have been affected, and many trees in the historic magnolia collection have been seriously damaged, even destroyed. The Blue Atlas Cedars in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers also felt the storm's impact, and in the new Azalea Garden, huge branches fell on new plantings and an ancient tree was lost. The entire 250 acres of the Garden is littered with branches and tree limbs.

We need your help to recover.

Our dedicated Horticulture staff has been working around the clock and will continue their efforts into the foreseeable future. The restoration can only be accomplished with the support of the private sector—we do not anticipate that any government agencies will be able to help.

Despite these formidable challenges, we are committed to our 120-year tradition of stewarding a uniquely beautiful and treasured landscape and serving as an important center for learning about and preserving the natural environment. Together we can continue to restore our native Forest and protect the extensive living collections across this landmark site.

Please give whatever you can. Any amount you are able to contribute will make a difference.


Gregory Long
Chief Executive Officer
The William C. Steere Sr. President