In the aftermath of this year's May 19th tornado my backyard landscape underwent a drastic change; two thirds of my shade was eliminated when two large pecan tree were felled by what my cohort, Becky Carlberg refers to as Tornado Bob.

By Linda Workman Smith

In the aftermath of this year’s May 19th tornado my backyard landscape underwent a drastic change; two thirds of my shade was eliminated when two large pecan trees were felled by what my cohort, Becky Carlberg refers to as Tornado Bob*. It took a while to recoup and catch my breath.

The Hasbell family—father, son and grandson—of Hasbell’s Tree Service valiantly worked in the rain, May 20th, removing one tree from the southeast corner of our house before weight from additional rainfall could do further damage to the structure. With this task accomplished—at the cost of one of their boom trucks being mired in mud just outside our fenced in back yard—the crew went their way in a pickup truck to attend to their own set of problems created by Tornado Bob. Seems some sweet soul was attempting to ransack a building containing a portion of their tools and the family needed to take measures to secure the area. ERRRRRRRR! But that’s another story that I won’t go into just yet.

Returning several days later, the Hasbell’s removed the other pecan tree from our detached grilling/patio area, then cut up large sections—from both trees--to be sold as firewood, and ground smaller pieces to be sold as mulch. Recycling at its best. All the while, the patriarch kept a sharp eye on the operation, gave direction and generally kept Sweet Hubby and I entertained with a running commentary regarding topics from A to Z.

The pecan stumps were so massive they could not be removed without bringing in even more equipment and there were tire tracks aplenty in my wet ground already; so I made the executive decision to leave the stumps in place and work around them till such time they “moved on”. I enlisted the help of Sweet Hubby and his chainsaw to shape them into forms more favorable for holding potted plants. I’m still hearing how his chain was ruined just to make a glorified plant stand. Hey, sometimes we all have to sacrifice for the greater good.

I began moving some of my truly shade loving plants to the other side of my back yard and squeezed them between existing plantings, underneath a massive oak tree that—thank you Lord—survived Tornado Bob mostly intact; only lost a few small limbs.

Meanwhile, as usual I was late getting much of my spring garden in the ground. And anyone who has had the pleasure/misfortune—depending on their point of view—of coming to my back yard knows that I always have potted plants in abundance just looking for a home.( Several friends have almost been banned from my back yard by husbands who know from experience that the trip will mean extra work for said husband.)So I alternated between garden planting, weeding, mulching and finding homes for some of my potted plants in newly created sunny spaces.

The area surrounding the pecan tree stump adjacent to our detached patio received a banana tree from Christina’s yard; cannas--Susan; a set of concrete fowl; rooster, hen and 3 chicks--Roller Dirt Farm; spiderwort--Daddy and I dug from a ditch—in the middle of summer—while driving from my parent’s house, in the hills northwest of Van Buren, AR, to the Senior Citizens Center at Cedarville, AR. When visiting my parents, I often went there with Daddy on Bingo day; we also had lunch with the folks, several of whom were Daddy’s siblings. Wow, that was a long explanation of a gimme plant; although I don’t suppose it’s technically a gimme plant as much as a “take me” plant. Atop the stump sits an old re-purposed metal container—from Green’s Corner--holding saw-toothed aloe vera and two varieties of sedum, one of which came from Betty. Gotta’ keep working that gray matter.

At this point I had filled all my available garden spaces. I needed a spot for fall cucumbers—as I’d not managed to plant any in the spring—and I’d made myself a promise; I shall not make any new planting beds………this year. I was sick—and still am-- of digging out Bermuda grass. As my healthy, active gray matter kicked into high gear, my eyes began to wander; if I could draw a light bulb on this page, this is where it would go. (@) What goes there? Alas, the other pecan stump just sits there, much as Bob placed it on May 19th. I had attempted to beautify it somewhat by planting several varieties of trailing sedum in soil pockets between the exposed roots. The debris of many years had fallen underneath the pecan tree’s sheltering branches to be taken back into Mother Earth. What a perfect place—drumroll please—for FALL CUCUMBERS. After planting two varieties of cucumbers and waiting till they were a few inches tall, I was ready to build them a support system.  I started out with 3 T posts and hay string; made an L shaped trellis along two sides of the stump. With all the delightful rain this summer, the cucumber plants soon reached the top of the trellis. From the very back southeast corner of my paradise I harvested several cane poles, took them to Sweet Hubby’s shop and cut them to appropriate lengths. I then attached them to the existing T posts with hay string—extending the poles another 2 to 3 feet above the tops of T Posts, did a little re-enforcement work with more cane poles and more hay string. Long story short; I’m now harvesting and eating cucumbers—every day--from amongst the remnants of damage inflicted by that nasty Tornado Bob. Phoenix arises from the ashes! Off to the north side and slightly east of my magnificent cucumber support framework is a newly reformed plot of ground slated to be “MISS BETTY’S IRIS GARDEN.” And that’s another story.

You know, I’m beginning to think old Bob may have done me a good turn. Pecan weevils were the primary beneficiaries of our pecan crops. I’m not a fan of using chemicals and as the pecan trees sat approximately 15 and 30 feet, respectively, from our well, spraying was never an option. The trees had been badly pruned—perhaps by an acquaintance of Tornado Bob—before we bought the property. Weak limbs grew helter skelter high in the bows of the trees; when working beneath them over the years, I always kept my ears tuned for the sound of cracking or shifting wood. I frequently dragged fallen limbs to the burn pile and cleaned up part of the rubble that Mother Nature didn’t take care of soon enough to suit me. So yes, being on the periphery of May 19ths tornado may have been a blessing in disguise. (And again I give thanks that we were spared, for the most part.) So with that all that said, fellow gardeners: When life gives you lemons…you don’t necessarily have to make lemonade.

As always, happy gardening,

Linda Workman Smith



*Hopefully Ms. Carlberg will not charge me with plagiarism for the use of her terminology in referring to the May 19th tornado as Tornado Bob. Thank you Becky.