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Landscaping For Hurricane Protection - Part 2

By Sammy of Stone Marmot

Oct. 3, 2008

Apparently I'm not the only one who has noticed that the proper landscaping can help protect your home during hurricanes. I recently found a book entitled “Stormscaping – Landscaping to Minimize Wind Damage in Florida” by Pamela Crawford. It is Volume 3 of her “Florida Gardening Series” books. The book has 168 pages and lists for $29.95.

The book is very heavy with pictures, almost like a coffee table picture book. Much of the text is fairly large print. Consequently, it is a fairly quick read. It took me less than two hours to read it.

This book has much information that is difficult to find elsewhere. It has a list of about 150 common Florida landscaping plants and discusses their wind tolerance, as well as a list of plants that should definitely be avoided. There is a discussion on why trees fail and what can hurt and improve the wind survival chances of all trees. A chapter is dedicated to designing your landscaping to minimize wind damage. Another chapter discusses preparing for a storm and how to improve your plant survival rates and minimize subsequent damage after a storm.

She confirmed my suspicions that low, dense vegetation does improve wind protection. Clusters of trees, which she defines as five or more closely planted trees, also provide a lot of mutual protection and reduce the wind impact for stuff downwind of the cluster. But the type of plant does matter, as some are brittle and break easily, some have shallow roots and uproot easily, etc. Most palms (but not all, the Queen being one exception) are among the most wind tolerant plants. Low plants tend to do better than tall plants, which makes sense, since the wind speed drops as you get nearer to the ground. But that may be because the number of obstacles the wind encounters, and hence, the “friction,” increases as you get nearer to the ground.

She seems to emphasize individual plant survival more over that of surrounding stuff. My initial thoughts are that I'm willing to sacrifice the plants to protect my house. But an intact plant is less likely to damage your house. Also, many in Florida have experienced multiple storms within a couple of months (remember 2004?) where the plants would not have time to cover between storms. So plant survival with minimum damage is probably good to emphasize.

There are a number of typos in the book. For example, there are two different chapters labeled as “Chapter 3,” with no chapter labeled as “4.” One caption states there were six major hurricanes between 1941 and 1960 even though the accompanying chart and table show and list eight storms. Errors like these aren't really important in themselves, though they do make the reader question what else is wrong in the book and how valid the data is. One might guess that the author and publisher were anxious to get this valuable information out to the public as soon as possible and in their hurry missed a few typos, except my copy is the second printing of the book and I would think the errors would have been fixed in the revision.

The emphasis also seems to be on peninsular Florida, namely USDA zones 9 through 11, with less discussion on the Panhandle and northernmost Florida. This is OK for me, living in the Tampa Bay area. But those in north Florida may want to scan the book first to see how well it fits them.

The author also dedicates a couple pages pushing her other books. More than one page is a little annoying. I haven't looked at her other books so I don't know how good they are.

Despite the shortcomings discussed above, I very highly recommend the book to any Florida property owner. As stated earlier, much of the info in this book is difficult to find elsewhere. This is also a subject we in Florida (actually, all the eastern US) need to take more seriously. At the very least, you should be recommending this book to your local library, homeowner's or condo association, and town zoning and planning organizations. I commend the author and her contributors for their efforts in creating this valuable book and hope they all continue their efforts in updating this information.

The book can be found or at least ordered from most major book stores and some gardening places in Florida (I got mine from Borders.). If you have trouble finding it, try the publisher at www.easygardencolor.com.

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