Archive for March, 2012
I have had a relationship with plants since I was four years old. My earliest memories involve a grove of pine trees filled with chipmunks, and a wide bank of English ivy where rainbow-striped lizards lived, occasionally emerging to sun themselves on a concrete sidewalk.
When I get cranky during long, cold winters that prevent me from working in the yard, Wonder Spouse sends me to my little greenhouse to breathe moist, warm air and fondle the plants that overwinter there. It works; I always feel better — more relaxed and content — after working with plants, even if it’s just a couple of hours spent pulling weeds.
The many variations of green smells and textures, rainbow arrays of flowers and scents, bird songs, pollinator visitors, and sometimes the occasional grumpy toad disturbed by my digging — all heal whatever ails me — every time. I am a long-time practitioner of a discipline that has acquired a name in the last few decades: horticultural therapy.
Many studies have demonstrated that all humans feel better when they connect with the natural world. This is especially true for those of us struggling with health challenges. Those who suffer from senile dementia, brain injury, mobility challenges brought on by stroke or accident, mentally challenged individuals, those struggling with mental illness, including eating disorders, and gravely ill children in hospitals — all of these groups benefit from spending time with the green world.
The strong, fresh scent of herbs such as rosemary and sage remind the forgetful of favorite recipes or a long-ago kitchen garden. Planting and harvesting vegetables and herbs help to center struggling minds and spirits. The potent perfume of a magnolia blossom may remind a fading mind of long-ago dances with handsome suitors.
One of the finest horticultural therapy programs in the United States is part of my favorite public garden: The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. They’ve been leaders in this discipline since 1978. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the staff dedicated to this discipline. Their stories always warm my heart and confirm what I have long known: plants heal. You can learn all about their inspiring programs here. Go read, learn more, and — if you live near here — maybe you’ll even be inspired to help in some way.
But even if you don’t live nearby or have the time or inclination to help with the NC Botanical Garden’s formal horticultural therapy program, perhaps you can undertake a little therapy on your own. Do you have elderly relatives or neighbors with yards that could use sprucing up? Perhaps they don’t go outside much because of accessibility issues. Maybe you could help. A small row of potted herbs for a sunny kitchen window can brighten a heart, and even flavor a soup. Do you have a friend who is struggling with personal issues? Maybe you two should take a spring stroll through a local garden. Or better yet, maybe you can help your friend plant a few tomatoes, or flowers, or herbs — whatever seems most likely to lift her spirits.
Plants heal. But you must remember to go outside and get your hands dirty, fondle a few leaves, breathe the sweetness of spring flowers, feel the sun on your face. I encourage all my readers to step outside their routines this weekend and find someone with whom you can share your love of plants — someone, perhaps, who could use the lift that the botanical world freely provides.
That’s what the local weatherman proclaimed on the TV today — we’re having the warmest March ever. We’ve blown every existing temperature record to smithereens. Of course, I didn’t need the weatherman to tell me that. The plants in my yard have been telling me since about the time the deluded groundhog promised six more weeks of winter.
In all my 40+ years of gardening in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, I have never seen trees, shrubs, and perennials bloom so early, nor have I ever seen them bloom all together, as many of them are doing this year.
Take, for example, Redbuds, Dogwoods, and my Two-Winged Silverbell. Until this spring, I could rely on an orderly progression from Redbud bloom to Dogwood Show to Silverbell finale. This year, all the native Redbuds except one finished blooming last week. The one exception grows in a significantly cooler microclimate in my yard, nestled against a backdrop of towering Red Cedars, as you can see here:
That’s the top of my little greenhouse in the right front corner.
In normal years, as the Redbuds fade, the native Dogwoods begin to open their showy four-petaled bracts, first a creamy yellow, then bleaching to white in the spring sunshine. This year, the Dogwoods started opening last week. If you click on the link above to my Redbud account for last year, you’ll see that the native Redbuds had barely begun blooming last March 13. The Dogwood link above will show you that last year’s bloom peak was around April 5. I predict this year the peak will be in a day or two.
As for the Two-Winged Silverbell, last year it peaked around April 15. This year, the first flowers are open now, and judging by the size of the rest of the flower buds, it will peak in two more days. That’s about the same time as the Dogwoods, not two weeks later, as is usual. Here’s a shot of the Halesia flowers and buds that I took this morning:
This is just plain ridiculous! At this rate, summer foliage will be out in three weeks. The deciduous azaleas, ferns, mayapples, anise trees, and myriad other plants are also way, way ahead of schedule. I’ll show you photographic proof in another post soon.
But today I want to close with a veggie garden update. Here are the spring greens after the 3.5 inches of rain (that’s not a typo) we got last week:
I will be picking more goodies for another spring salad tomorrow. Tonight, I’ve covered them again with the floating row cover. We’re under a frost advisory tonight, and my yard often goes ten degrees below the official reporting station. The frost probably wouldn’t hurt them, but why take a chance with such potential deliciousness?
The Sugar Sprint peas are now producing tendrils. I expect flower buds any second. Tonight’s predicted frost will actually make them happier, so they don’t get covered.
This past weekend’s rain kept me mostly indoors watching the grass grow, but I did manage to finish transplanting all the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse to larger pots. They’ll remain in these until it’s time to put them into the garden. Here’s a shot of the newly transplanted veggies:
The Super Marzano tomatoes that I planted two weeks ahead of the other summer veggies are enormous, even showing tiny flower buds. Look at them overpowering this shot of the greenhouse bench:
Their turn in the garden will come soon enough — assuming I manage to pull out enough of the cover crop of crimson clover on their beds to make room for them. The crimson clover has never grown to such gigantic size before. Usually winter freezes knock it down. That didn’t happen this year, so it grew, and grew, and grew. Soon the plants will be covered in red flower spikes that draw every pollinator in a five-county radius.
For good or ill, I’ll have plenty of warm weather for garden chores. After tonight’s frost and a chilly Tuesday, Wednesday is forecasted to be back in the mid to upper seventies.
Don’t even get me started on the pollen avalanche. March Madness indeed.
I invited a friend over for lunch today and decided that a spring salad would be ideal fare. I bought some greens from the grocery, intending to supplement them with a few from my garden. However, when I visited my veggies this morning, I discovered I had more than enough to create two lovely salads built from my fresh greens alone. That’s the large plastic bowl that I used to hold my green treasures.
And here’s what the bed of greens looked like before I began harvesting leaves:
I can attest that they tasted even better than they look. Nothing compares to the tenderness of just-picked greens. Here’s a closer look:
Red Cross is a red butterhead lettuce variety. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love red lettuces; I swear they taste better than green ones. Although, I must say that the Coastal Star leaves we ate were also magnificent. Coastal Star is a green romaine lettuce. The dark green leaves in the above photo belong to Emu spinach, a smooth leaf type.
I bought seeds of all three varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds – my source for most of my veggie seeds. These two lettuces are supposed to have better heat resistance than most varieties. I’ll let you know when they begin to bolt and go bitter on me. For sure, they are perfect now.
You may recall that I started the greens in this bed in my greenhouse over a month ago and transplanted them about two weeks ago. I pronounce this process a success. Never have I harvested salad-worthy greens this early. All I had to do was wash off the record pollen deluge before serving them.
Yes, the yellow haze of pine pollen dominates the landscape. Every breeze releases yellow clouds from tall Loblolly Pines. Although pine pollen is too large to exacerbate allergies, it is still uncomfortable crunching under eyelids and sneaking into nasal passages. And its arrival is two or three weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to the continuing record warmth.
Spring flowers are undeterred by the trees’ reproductive enthusiasm, as evidenced by this lovely group of tulips. I lost track of the variety name years ago. Unlike most tulips, these have returned and bloomed many years now. I think they set their little corner of my front garden on fire.
Happy Spring, everyone. Here’s hoping significant rains settle the yellow plague of pollen for all of us soon!
The vernal equinox occurred during the wee hours this morning. Astronomically speaking, that makes spring officially here. As is true for much of the United States this year, the news is entirely anticlimactic.
My early spring bloomers have not only been blooming for weeks, many of them finished almost as soon as they started, thanks to the record heat and drought that continues to plague my corner of the Piedmont in North Carolina.
Case in point: my lovely Magnolia ‘Butterflies.’ Two days after it began blooming, petal drop started. The above photo was taken three days ago. Now almost all the petals have dropped.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ didn’t wait her usual week after Butterflies to commence her floral display. Instead, she peaked the same day the photo above of Butterflies was taken. Here’s a shot of the whole tree. Elizabeth is a knock-out — visually and aromatically — when she is at her peak like this:
Wonder Spouse took all these photos, by the way. You may well want to click on them to enlarge them, so you can fully appreciate their quality. Here’s a close-up of Elizabeth’s flowers taken the same day as the above photo:
The Bloodroots growing on my north-east-facing slope above the creek began blooming about the same time that Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ got started. Here’s one that’s been open for a couple of days:
And here’s what most of them looked like that day:
Not to be outdone by these precocious bloomers, the first flowers of my native Pinxterbloom Azalea were nearly open the same day that the above photos were taken (March 17). That’s three weeks ahead of last year.
For the first time that I can remember, my oak trees are racing the Loblolly Pines to see which will release their pollen first. I think it may well be a tie. I cannot remember that happening before. Not ever in all the 5+ decades I’ve lived in North Carolina.
So, Vernal Equinox — welcome, I guess. The party started well before your arrival this year. And it’s already well on its way to its conclusion. I just hope that by the time the Summer Solstice arrives, my landscape doesn’t look too much like the Sahara Desert.
Wonder Spouse uncovered this beautiful ring-necked snake while raking leaves away from the air-conditioning unit two days ago. The AC unit was roused by our 80+ degree weather and needed to be cleaned and checked for what promises to be a long, hot summer. The snake, however, was not quite convinced that its active season had begun. Its lethargy presented a photo opportunity, so I dashed inside and grabbed my camera.
Ring-necked snakes are common residents of my Piedmont woods. They live in leaf mulch and other decaying vegetation, where they prey on earthworms and salamanders. I think they are especially attractive snakes, sporting vivid yellow bellies with golden necklaces to match. This one was about 16 inches long. They are harmless to humans, of course. And the red-shouldered hawks that hunt on the floodplain forest find them quite delicious.
Fully awake and enjoying a sunning session on a floating log, this big fellow seems to be king of all he surveys:
I think it is a bullfrog, because I can’t see any of the ridges that adorn the bodies of most of our other native frogs. But I’m not sure. This fuzzy shot was taken with my camera’s zoom feature, because as I got closer, it plopped into the water with a resounding splash. I like the way this fellow seems to be admiring his reflection in the water. Bullfrog tadpoles take two years to metamorphose. I can see a dozen or so enormous ones loitering in the shallows of the pond here.
Bird migrators are coming and going, often stopping to refuel in my yard. Three dozen Cedar Waxwings have loitered for over three weeks. Their flight patterns remind me of fish schools in the way they can change direction on a dime without breaking formation. The Cowbirds returned three days ago. Their melodic gurgling call that sounds like falling water to my ear is unmistakeable. They hog my bird feeders until they pair off for nesting.
Flocks of boisterous Robins have been coming and going for over a month. Another group descended on us yesterday. They were having so much fun splashing in a mud puddle in our driveway that I had to honk the horn to get them to leave so I could exit my driveway. I think they like our yard for its abundance of earthworms — much like the ring-necked snakes, I guess.
Since childhood, I have always loved weeping cherry trees in bloom. They were always in every landscape scene I drew with crayons and pastels. So, of course, when I had a place for one, I could not resist. Here is what it looked like yesterday:
That’s the evergreen dogwood behind it, and the ‘Magic Carpet’ spirea just beginning to leaf out in the foreground. The cherry flowers hummed with honeybee visitors yesterday. Someone near me must be keeping bees again — good news for my garden to be sure.
And the greenhouse seedlings are making it clear they are ready to be upgraded to larger pots. Roots of tomatoes, peppers, and basils are creeping out the bottoms of their starter pots seeking roomier accommodations. Weather permitting, they are next on my to-do list.
Tis the season to be up and out and growing. Get busy, or get out of the way!
In mid-March, this is what I expect to see: vivid crocus blooms. This year, these two are stragglers, blooming later than their crocus comrades by more than three weeks.
My blooming trees are at least a week ahead of last year. Prompted by our absurd eighty-degree weather, Magnolia ‘Butterflies‘ has exploded into flower. Look how vividly yellow they are in the early morning as they just open:
And here’s what the tree looked like as I stared up its trunk from ground level:
I couldn’t stay too long. The potent perfume of the zillions of flowers was overwhelming.
My Chinese redbud is at peak bloom. Here’s a close-up:
And now the native redbuds are getting into the act. Here’s what the branches of one of my larger specimens looked like this morning:
And, yes, the sky really was that blue.
The winterhazels are nearly at peak bloom. Here’s a view of branches obscuring one of my bird feeders:
And here’s a close-up of winterhazel flowers:
I think their vivid color makes forsythias look dowdy.
There’s lots more, of course, but I want to give you a brief veggie update. Yesterday, I transplanted the Super Marzano tomatoes to larger pots. They didn’t miss a beat. Here they are looking like they’ve always lived in these pots:
And here are the other tomato, pepper, and basil seedlings:
Their roots are mostly hitting the bottom of their pots now. So they’ll be getting upgraded to bigger pots very soon.
Today, I sowed seeds of many of the free flowers that I got from Renee’s Garden as a benefit of my membership in the Garden Writers’ Association. I’ll be reporting on how they do throughout the growing season. I also sowed more basil seeds, because I’m planning on giving away some plants to a community garden. I’ve got the greenhouse and the seeds; I figure I should share the wealth.
Last weekend, Wonder Spouse double-shredded a big pile of fallen leaves that we had collected last winter. These broken-up leaves make the absolutely best mulch in the world for my vegetable garden. As fast as Wonder Spouse shredded it, I was tucking it around my sprouting sugar snap peas and onion plants. The peas responded instantly by growing taller. Here’s what they looked like this morning:
I am worried about our heat wave. We are predicted to remain 20 degrees above normal several more days, then we back down to a mere 10 degrees above normal. Even though I got my spring garden planted earlier than ever before, if the heat persists, I won’t get much of a yield from it.
For now, I’m watering often, in hopes that plenty of moisture will help the spring veggies thrive despite the heat. Our area remains in moderate drought, so every time I’m watering, I’m also praying for significant, frequent rain. And cooler temperatures, of course. Eighty-four degrees in mid-March is too much for any of us to handle for long.
Lovely, aren’t they? Due to a childhood filled with perpetually pink gifts from a well-meaning grandmother, I’m not usually a big fan of pink. However, these daffodils were freebies from the same company that gave me the pink hyacinths I showed you here.
Both sets of bulbs have prospered. And in my fantasy garden land where I stay on top of all my chores, they would have been divided and spread around several years ago to prevent the crowding that inevitably leads to diminished blooms. These bulbs are rapidly approaching that limit. Will I get to them? Unless friendly garden elves suddenly appear to help me, probably not.
Most days on my five acres, I am so besotted by the beauty I encounter at every step that I manage to ignore all the to-dos clamoring for their turns. Today, as creaky joints and aching muscles protest my every move, the beauty is being outshouted.
I spent the last two days finishing the initial planting of the spring vegetable garden. I was pushing hard to exploit a window of absurdly mild, dry weather that preceded today’s morning rain (a mere 0.28 of an inch). This weekend, temperatures will dip a bit below freezing — not enough to slow my well-watered and tucked in spring veggies.
Remember the greens I started that needed transplanting? I last showed them to you here. Now they are all tucked into their final destination:
I was delighted by the number of earthworms I annoyed as I prepared this bed on Wednesday and planted it yesterday. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can just make out the wire hoops over the bed that support the weight of the garden fabric that you can see here:
I realize the cloth isn’t exactly draped elegantly. The wind was blowing in a cold front, so I settled for functionality and disregarded aesthetics.
After I got them in, I direct-sowed seeds of beets, two carrot varieties, two more lettuce varieties, a package of mixed mesclun greens, and another spinach variety. They don’t look like much yet, but here they are freshly buried and watered:
You can see that I am not compulsively neat. Functionality is my concern. I’ve found that these crosswise initial planting rows usually work well. I sowed the seeds relatively thinly, but if the plants germinate well, I’ll need to thin them. That’s why I left spaces between the planting sites. If I end up not needing the space for greens, I’ll tuck in flowers and herbs there.
The greenhouse looks much emptier without its crowd of robust greens. But the remaining seedlings are — mostly — doing well. I always start six plants of each tomato and pepper variety. I plant out two, and find good homes for the rest. That’s never a problem; I’ve found that few folks say no to free tomato and pepper plants.
Indigo Rose only yielded two excellent seedlings and a puny-looking third — 50% germination. I’ve sowed new seeds in the spaces that didn’t produce. Here they are sitting by themselves in the germination chamber:
However, Super Marzano — my other new tomato variety this year — yielded a 100% germination rate. For some reason, I lost my mind and planted twelve seeds. Here they are with my four reliable tomato varieties, all of which also germinated 100%. The Super Marzanos are the big ones in back that had a two-week head start over the others.
The peppers and basils did not disappoint me either. Here they are raring to go on the greenhouse shelf beside the tomatoes:
The Super Marzano tomatoes will need to be upgraded to individual pots very soon. And it’s almost time to sow more flower seeds in the greenhouse. In fact, it’s probably time right now. After the upcoming chilly weekend, next week’s temperatures are predicted to soar into the upper seventies, with nighttime lows not dipping below forty. That’s crazy talk for mid-March; much more what I’d expect for middle to late April.
The good news? I am well-prepared with an abundance of enthusiastic veggie seedlings to try to wrest spring and summer veggies from too-warm, too-dry soil. And as soon as I am able to once again walk fully upright without limping or groaning, I’m going to get right on that.
See those little green sprouts just peeking up through the soil? Those are the Sugar Sprint Snap Peas I planted two weeks and four days ago. A few peas have been up for several days, but this morning I counted 24 pea sprouts. When the warmth returns day after tomorrow, I predict that at least that many more will appear. I like peas. I planted a lot of seeds.
Although I thought I had watered them well, I think the peas were waiting for a significant rain event, which we finally got this past weekend. My rain gauge reported 1.1 inches of rain for the two-day event. My creek actually rose and got silty! The floodplain held puddles of rainwater for over 24 hours. That hasn’t happened in so long that I can’t remember the last time it happened. Ten years ago, the floodplain was usually puddle-covered most of the winter. Of course, it helps to actually have a winter season, something we didn’t get this year.
Which brings me back to those enthusiastic peas. Most years, I’m just thinking about planting them, and this year they’re up and running. Did I mention how much we love the flavor of snap peas? They freeze well, so no pea is ever wasted.
It’s not just the vegetables that aren’t waiting for the vernal equinox to start their spring shows. Check out the blooms on my Chinese Redbud:
Not all the blooms have opened, but enough now display their lavender radiance to brighten that corner of my winter landscape.
The native spicebush is covered in diminutive yellow flowers that make their visual impact by their sheer numbers — especially effective against a winter sky:
The crimson flowers of the red maples are morphing into equally vivid seeds — samaras, the botanists call them.
Many of my ornamental stars are rushing full tilt into spring bloom. Check out these pink hyacinths:
My beautiful Magnolia acuminata ‘Butterflies’ is cracking open its petals. I’m hoping they’re still closed enough to avoid getting zapped by tonight’s predicted temperatures in the low twenties.
There’s more, which I’ll show you soon. Every time I walk our five acres these days, something else is taking a headlong leap into a spring that hasn’t officially started yet.
Meanwhile in the greenhouse, all the tomatoes I sowed last Wednesday have germinated; most achieved 100% germination. Viva Italia, Early Goliath, Sweet Treats, and Big Beef are all up; these are my old reliable varieties, and I’m not surprised they’re raring to go. Indigo Rose seedlings began showing up a day after the first sprouts of those other varieties, and now all but one of the seeds I sowed has sprouted. My primary supplier of tomato seeds sent me a freebie package of mixed heirloom tomatoes, which I couldn’t resist. Most of those have germinated now, responding in about the same time frame as Indigo Rose.
With the impending explosion of tomatoes in the greenhouse, it is imperative that all spring veggie starts get planted out into the garden ASAP. My goal is to get them all tucked in before predicted rains return this Friday. I’m also hoping to direct-sow all the other spring garden veggies: beets, two carrot varieties, and many varieties of salad greens. Before I can start, I must pull winter weeds and crimson clover off of two large beds. I see a tired body and cranky joints in my near future.
But the pain will be worth it when I’m dining on just-harvested spring salads. My timing is good. The full moon will be smiling down on the newly planted garden this Thursday while Spring Peepers and American Toads chorus in the swamp, and the eerie territorial calls of Screech Owls (heard for the first time ever yesterday) echo among the still bare trees.
I’ve mentioned before that the five acres I’ve shared with Wonder Spouse (and myriad critters and plants) for the last 22 years started out pretty bare. The previous owner kept the huge canopy trees (thank goodness!), but eradicated every understory tree except dogwood. There was no shrub layer, and no herbaceous layer characteristic of Piedmont woodlands, except in the swampy parts of the floodplain and on a rocky north slope that he couldn’t mow.
For two decades, we’ve been adding understory tree and shrub species, slowly building the vegetation layers needed to create a rich woodland floor. Finally, in the last few years, I’m starting to see my dream realized. Inside the acre or so enclosed by deer fencing on the north side of our property, I’ve been planting choice wildflower specimens, nestling them beneath flourishing deciduous azaleas, viburnums, and vacciniums. This spring, I decided the time was right to add some of my favorite spring ephemeral wildflowers: trilliums.
Of course, I turned to my favorite local nursery that specializes in natives and choice non-natives. They are just a fifteen-minute drive from my house, and thus pose a constant temptation, which I have learned to — mostly — resist. I almost never impulsively buy a plant now. My yard is starting to fill out. Room for choice additions is becoming limited, so I plan my new acquisitions carefully.
I have always thought trilliums were especially lovely spring wildflowers. The three-leaved and three-petaledl beauties can be breathtaking when massed on a cool, moist hill. I bought one of each of the four species my local nursery sells: Trillium erectum (Purple Trillium), T. flexipes (White Nodding Trillium), T. grandiflorum (Great White Trillium), and T. luteum (Yellow Trillium). When I transplanted them two days ago, all four plants had impressively healthy root systems and multiple growing shoots. I am psyched.
According to the North Carolina Native Plant Society‘s handy dandy Web site, only the Great White Trillium occurs naturally in the Piedmont of my state. The other three are natives of the NC mountains. But as with any plant, if I can sufficiently emulate the conditions under which my mountain trillium acquisitions occur, I should be able to help them flourish in my yard.
The north side of my yard stays cooler — more like the mountains, I’m hoping. And the deciduous shade layers under which my just-planted trilliums are planted should encourage them to settle in and adapt to their new homes. They are buried in rich, loamy soil and surrounded by leaf mulch. My big challenge will be keeping them adequately watered. I am determined that they will not just survive, but flourish. These four treasures will get water no matter how much the drought deepens.
While I planted my new babies, I realized that the constant droning of the Spring Peepers was now enhanced by the soprano descant trilling of American Toads. They are singing three weeks earlier than last year. I know because I wrote about the arrival of their songs here. Perhaps early egg-laying will improve the chances that their birth puddles remain full long enough for tadpoles to become new toads — if a late freeze doesn’t zap them. Fingers crossed for my amphibian serenaders.
Meanwhile, my little greenhouse is fast becoming Veggie Central. I had hoped to have the spring veggie starts transplanted into the garden by now, but weather and an uninvited virus that invaded our household have thrown off my timetable. Note the size of the lettuces that I photographed two days ago:
I mentioned that I also started the Super Marzano tomatoes a few weeks ago. They all germinated and are growing with enthusiasm on the greenhouse shelf beside the peppers which also recently exited the germination chamber. Here they are two days ago:
The tomatoes are top left; the peppers to the right. The germination chamber is now full of seeds I sowed two days ago. They include all the remaining tomato varieties, three basil varieties, and two flower varieties. As of this morning, nothing had germinated, but it’s early. I’m betting I’ll have newly emerged seedlings by next week.
It’s an exciting time in the garden. As evidenced by the toad trilling, plants and animals all seem to be two to three weeks ahead of where they were last year. Will their gamble on early spring pay off? Or will late-breaking winter weather destroy their chances of reproductive success? I have no idea, but I can tell you that after the frightening weather currently heading my way passes by tomorrow, the forecast calls for below-normal temperatures for next week.
In truth, the success or failure of my plantings seems completely unimportant right now. My thoughts and prayers are with the folks living on the other side of the NC mountains, where killer tornadoes continue to ravage their landscape.