Back in the 1980s, in the years of my botanical innocence, I grew many of my hybrid plants without any thought about what I would do if a hurricane came calling. In those days, I had never experienced a real hurricane because up until hurricane Andrew paid us a visit, the 'hurricanes" that came by were just days of on and off thunderstorms and thick gray clouds. I remember how neighbors would plan "hurricane parties" with candles ready in case the power went out for a few hours.
I had grown some amazingly lush and large specimens of what was at that time the flagship of my hybridizing career, Alocasia x portora. One particular specimen I had planted on the north side of our lot, by the neighbor's fenceline. It was a very robust specimen of what I called "Portora Green" (see thumbnail picture above, right). I never kept any offsets of this plant in pots, but simply planted the one seedling in the ground. Over time it grew quite large and did pup, but I never removed the pups, either.
The summer of 1992 was a quiet one with no hurricanes. That is, until a little storm started up in the Atlantic in mid August and worked its way slowly westward. I wasn't concerned, and neither were very many other people. We'd seen this before many times and just thought of taking in the garden furniture and lowering the TV antenna (yes, we had one back then!). I remember being up on the roof on August 23, the day before U. S. landfall, enjoying the sunshine, gentle breeze and lush view of all my garden as I looked around. We'll get some rain and some wind, then everything will be back to normal again. Well, not quite . . .
I was awakened about 5 AM on the 24th of August, 1992, by loud noises outside from falling debris and horrific winds. At that point, although I wasn't fully aware of it then, my gardening was going to change drastically for years to come. The little red "x" in the picture below, left, indicates the approximate location of my home. One thing for sure was that I was not going to be watching the TV weatherman's recap of this storm that evening!
Six weeks passed before power was restored to our house, and in those days we had no generator, either.
So much loss
I'd venture to say that close to 90 percent of my plants were destroyed or just plain gone. With pieces of roof from other houses in our yard, fallen trees everywhere, and chaos reigning, I couldn't even dig through the debris for days. Many plants that might have survived under the debris later perished from being buried under it for so long. One plant that went lost was the Alocasia pictured above. At the time I didn't single that one out as more important than any others because I had lost so many plants and trees.
Fast-forwarding away from those terrible days to 2007, I obtained a new Heliconia plant and installed it right near the location where that large green Portora used to be so many years ago. I thought nothing of it; the area was available and nothing else but grass had been growing there for years. This past Spring, 2008, I noticed an Alocasia leaf sprung up right beside where I had planted the Heliconia. Stunned, I removed the plant with great care and potted it up to see what it might turn out to be. To my delight and amazement, it turned out to be the same one I had growing in that spot so many years ago, before that fateful day when Andrew dropped by.
That plant has grown quite a bit and in every way looks just like the original one I had growing there years ago. Since the days of Andrew, other plants I had lost or forgotten have sprung up one by one from little corms buried for years in the ground. They are a testament to the hardiness of nature and the rebirth of hope from dark and dismal tragedies. I treasure each and every one of them and am grateful to know they are mine, because they came back to me.
Photo credit: LariAnn Garner and Wikimedia Commons