The summer of 2017 was going awesome until…Harvey. I usually have my head spinning with information about flowers to share, but as I write this in early September my head is waterlogged. We were having record sales of bouquets and straight bunch material at the large store that carries our product. We had even picked up a couple of wholesale warehouses and we were just moving right along.

On Tuesday, August 29 I made my regular delivery into Houston to Central Market, Mayesh, and a floral designer, By the time I got home I found out there was a tropical depression out in the Gulf. So we made bouquets on Thursday for Friday, and made our trip again, but this time we pretty much picked anything we could, making a large number of bouquets like we always do. I didn’t sleep much that night as we kept watching the radar and wondering how bad this was going to be. Since I couldn’t sleep I thought I would get up at three and head into Houston to drop my load off, and be back home early to beat the bad weather. Houston is an hour away: many times we have tons of rain and they get nothing, or vice versa. After some conversation with my husband I decided to not leave until 6:00 a.m. because there was some heavy rains on the radar and I didn’t want to drive in the dark. I also needed him to stay here and start prepping for the storm.

I had about 1000 new dahlias in 4” pots out in the seedling house, plus 200 trays of zinnia, celosia, cosmos, gomphrena, marigolds, and grasses ready to go out. The storm was tracking to come right over us, or really close, and I needed all those plants tucked away in our flower shed in case the greenhouses would be torn up and damage my seedlings.

By the time I got back home, it had started raining lightly, and by evening it had turned into torrential downpours, and got windier and windier. On Friday night the storm came ashore, just south of us. It moved ever so slowly and rained and rained and rained. We think we got between 25 and 30 inches of rain. Houston got twice that in some areas. The wind was very gusty and around 50 mph. We have a house at the coast where the storm was projected to come ashore. My heart and body were just worried sick that we were going to lose the place we loved so much. The storm came in over about 40 miles from it, sparing both it and the little town in which it’s located. Now, looking back how many lost their only house they have, I feel selfish for worrying about our family’s vacation home.

For three days we sat in the house and just knew that when we would be able to check everything it wasn’t going to be good. On Tuesday morning I got out and checked the gardens and was like wow we might be okay but during the day the sun began to shine and it got into the 90’s. All my sunflowers that were taller than a foot fell over, and I guess the roots just drowned, and with the heat the plants couldn’t transpire, and they cooked. Zinnias blew over but then just also turned brown and died. I broke the stems and they are brown inside.

The dreaded-to-pick gomphrena devil plant lived through it all. Marigolds and amaranth made it as well but were lying on the ground. Surprisingly, the celosia also pulled through. It’s amazing how strong and resilient the plants are for the most part. Most of the greenhouses were okay, though we lost the covering on one greenhouse; we were in the northeast quadrant of the storm which packs the worst part winds. We also monitored the greenhouse roofs. I had to punch a couple of holes in one of them because it was holding a large amount of water and I was worried it would crash the roof in. Poly patch tape and we will get those fixed.

We will bounce back and be fine. We will miss 4-8 weeks of sales but I still consider ourselves very blessed. Two towns near us located on the Colorado River also flooded and were declared disasters. Our farm is located on the high side of the river so will never flood.

There are several growers near me and unfortunately we are all in the same boat. Bad thing is we are in the time of year when if we plant now they may not even make it before frost or if they do flower, it’s going to be a lot of work for not much blooming time. I lamented on what I should do and luckily I had a good supply of seedlings growing already and I will get those out into the gardens as soon as ground is workable. 

I could plant these seedlings in my greenhouses where I can run the production into late November but at the same time I have to keep in mind that I have all my plug orders for crops such as snapdragons, dianthus, delphinium, poppies, and campanula coming in October first, as well as all my anemones and ranunculus. Knowing this I will plant what I can in greenhouses so it won’t frost while leaving plenty room in all my beds for plants that are coming.

Farming is always a gamble and you just have to roll with the punches. I’ve been totally stressed throughout this whole ordeal and I’ve had to put my mind on other things or its just gets overwhelming. We need to do some greenhouse maintenance and we wanted to take a few days off for a vacation since we were too busy all summer. Now we have time to do this.

I look back at all the plant material lost and wonder was there anything I could have done to protect my plants and now seeing how bad the storm was, I know that I couldn’t have done anything else. I know many of you have watched the devastation that the coast of Texas experienced and trust me the pictures can’t even do it justice. I could share hundreds of stories of the storm but you just can’t fathom it until you have been through something like this.

There are so many heroes that came together and saved each other and just would bring you to tears. I’ve shed many myself as the days unfolded as I saw all the generosity pour out from the communities around me as so many needed help. Our son was one of those Texans and their boats that went into Houston to pluck people out of their homes. A CNN reporter and his camera man jumped in the four boats that were in my son’s group and filmed them as they were guided through the flooded streets of Houston. That night we were seeing Brian on the national news. While he was in Houston I went to the shelter and helped there as I knew I would just go nuts worrying about him and I was sick of all the TV coverage and I needed to get out and everything on the farm was just too wet and couldn’t do anything constructive.

My sister works in the ER and she handled so many cases of patients affected by the storm. So many were stress-related issues and digestive issues related to not eating the right foods during the worst of the experience.

We will work hard to get our lives back to normal but it will be awhile as we have so many around us that have to rebuild. I want to thank all of you who reached out with phone calls, texts, and emails to check on us and did so repeatedly. Compared to others we are blessed but at the same time we have experienced a catastrophic storm that we will never forget. I’m sharing our story in hopes that if this happens to you, that you will stay positive and look into the situation and see the miracle that comes from experiences like this. It may not be a hurricane but something else equally devastating but stay positive; there is always something good that comes out of something bad. You just have to open your eyes and heart.

Rita Anders

Cuts of Color

Rita Anders Cuts of Color Contact at [email protected]