First it was Hurricane Sandy, then it was the Frankenstorm and now it’s Superstorm Sandy. For many people in New York, New Jersey and in particular it was - and indeed still is - unimaginably horrific.
Here in north east Pennsylvania we got off lightly; we were without electricity, heat, water and internet for almost exactly four days until yesterday afternoon and with highly unpredictable phone service for most of that time. A 50ft maple fell across our driveway, taller hemlocks fell nearby on one side, even taller oaks and maples on the other. One went right through our neighbor’s shed; but our houses were spared. Strangely, in spite of those ferocious winds, there are still golden leaves on our Asian witch hazel and bright yellow leaves on our Hydrangea arborescens ‘White Dome’.
I’m not going to show you pictures of our fallen trees – it’s nothing compared to what some people have suffered. On The Guardian’s website you can see pictures of the storm damage and pictures of the aftermath.
Local radio service was knocked out by the storm, so we only had radio service from New York 80 miles away, which was the opposite of what Brits would expect: public radio news was embarrassingly bad, commercial radio was good. But all was New York news. For four days there was no way to get any local information at all. So… We piled logs on the open fire, cooked food from our steadily thawing freezer on the grill, fried eggs out there too – and read by daylight, flashlight and candlelight.
So I was able to actually read Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs by Michael Dirr, all 950 pages of it, rather than look things up in it. OK, I didn’t read every single page but I read quite a lot of it. A proper review will come in a week or two but being an easy read, and opinionated and packed with information and very well illustrated is a winning combination for American gardeners. I wonder how it compares with the new Timber Press Encyclopedia of Flowering Shrubs by Jim Gardiner, a British expert. When Jim Gardiner’s book arrives, I’ll be able to tell you. I’ll try to sit down and read that too – without the need for another storm.