Can a single lightning strike kill two trees at once, and blow up my television and freezer when they were on surge protectors? These trees stood like guardians over my house since before there was a house.
Losing trees is painful, especially when they have been around since Florida had more forests than subdivisions. I am sorry to say yes, that one strike could have killed both pine trees and taken out your television and freezer in a matter of seconds. It is called a side flash. It runs down one tree, hits the ground, and bounces to the other tree and onto the house. Surge protectors help appliances, but putting lightning control on your trees is a bit difficult and expensive. If your tree came with a high price tag, or could come down on your house, lightning control may be a good investment.
Lightning is five times hotter than the sun. It may ease your pain a bit to know that Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S. We have storms 100 days of the year, compared to five in California, and lightning strikes kill more people in Florida than any other state. Florida is the perfect mix of high heat levels and high humidity, plus we sit smack between the Gulf and Atlantic. Rain clouds plus high heat mix to create thunderstorms and deadly lightning. For more information, go to: pasco.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/Lightning.shtml.
I didn’t even realize the trees had been hit until huge chunks of bark started falling off their trunks and my driveway was covered in pine needles. The official diagnosis came from a pileated woodpecker. I knew if he was drumming on the tree it was time to do something before they fell on my house. It was awful. When the tree cutters took the first tree down, the whole house shook. My yard now looks naked. What can I do?
You will most likely want to replace at least one of your trees to re-create balance in your yard. We suggest that you look for trees that fall under the “Florida Friendly” guidelines. They are not invasive and grow well here. One thing to consider is deciduous or evergreen. An evergreen will keep its form throughout the year, just like your pine trees did. You may want to consider a Southern favorite — the magnolia. Even when it is not putting out those movie-worthy blooms, its leaves are large and glossy. Create a planting bed around the new tree. A lonely tree is a lost opportunity for creativity and curb appeal. Think in terms of groupings and, of course, balance. For more information on trees that are Florida Friendly see: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep007.
A friend gave me a plant with unusual leaves and told me it was a hibiscus. Its leaves are nothing like my other hibiscus plants, nor are the flowers. Could it be a marsh hibiscus?
It certainly sounds like it could be the marsh hibiscus, also called a Scarlet Rose Mallow Hibiscus coccineus. I agree, the leaves on this plant are unusual. Star shaped, they are lacey and delicate, with sharp points that can stretch gracefully from 4 to 8 inches. And when this plant blooms, its bold red color is poetry among leaves. Hummingbirds and butterflies agree. These blooms, with strong-separated leaves, last only a day, but nectar lovers of all kinds detect them very quickly. This hardy hibiscus is stunning in a border, as the center piece in a grouping or along the edge of a pond and it tolerates salt spray.
It can be planted year round in our zone and grows quickly. Make sure to leave enough room for your hibiscus to grow, because it can reach an elegant 8 feet and expand three to four feet wide. Even though one of its common names is marsh hibiscus and it needs to be thoroughly watered, it likes dry feet, and is pretty much drought tolerant. Organic mulch to protect its roots will go a long way towards making sure these beauties grow happy and pest free. (Be careful not to let the mulch touch the plant.)
A little surprising, this Florida native is deciduous, and in North Florida our cold temperatures can cause leaves to drop and sometimes even cause die back until spring. If leaves do drop, or the plant dies back, you will forgive them as soon as those beautiful flowers pop out in the spring sunshine. For more information, see: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp253.
Connie Timpson is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. If you have gardening questions, you can speak to a master gardener from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Duval extension office at (904) 255-7450.