Hail that pummeled parts of Omaha on Tuesday morning left a trail of shredded plants and shrubs in its wake.

Gardeners in the hail’s path may have to start over with some of their plants. A few retail garden centers with outdoor displays also suffered significant damage.

Dale Ponec, the general manager at Westlake Ace Hardware at 140th Street and West Center Road, estimated that 75% of the store’s plants were destroyed.

“We lost every vegetable, a bunch of shrubs and perennials, lots of flowers and lots of hanging baskets,” he said. “It’s pretty bad.”

Personnel from other stores were helping to move the ruined items to the back of the store so the damage can be assessed by someone from the corporate office in Lenexa, Kansas.

Items that were under shade structures escaped the worst of the storm. But he said there were so many leaves on the ground that it looked like a day in the fall.

“It took plants completely out of the pots and just beat it to nothing. Just sticks sticking out of the dirt,” he said. “It was pretty much like a war zone. Stuff was thrown all over the place.”

Kaw Valley Greenhouses, with locations at 144th and West Center and 72nd and Dodge Streets, saw a loss of about 60% at both locations.

“It stripped a lot of foliage and broke a lot of branches and stems,” said Dan Parcel, retail director of the Manhattan, Kansas-based garden center.

The stores already have started a hail sale with everything at half-price, including pottery.

Indian Creek Nursery, at 303 N. Saddle Creek Road, also had some damage, but everything that was in the greenhouses is fine. Most perennials and shrubs were under a shade cloth that caught the hail.

“We had some things outside, and they were tattered for sure,” owner Scott Farrington said. “Trees and shrubs will recover. They will look a little tattered and damaged. If things still have leaves, they will rebound and grow.”

Farrington said he already has had customers in the store buying more vegetables to replace those destroyed in the storm.

Scott Evans, the horticulture program coordinator at Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties, said a lot of work lies ahead for gardeners in the hardest-hit parts of the metro area.

“It was a doozy, that’s for sure,” he said.

Of most concern are trees and shrubs that have injuries to their bark. Those open wounds will be entry points for pathogens.

Anything that looks broken or splintered should be removed.

“That damage won’t show up this year,” he said. “It’s going to be in a couple of years.”

Evans, who lives near 156th and Q Streets, says his peony bushes, which just started blooming, were plowed down. The bushes should be trimmed to remove the damaged areas and flowers, he said, but not cut back to the ground.

Evans said his hostas looked like they went through a blender. Those popular perennials should be given a day or two to see if they bounce back.

“If they don’t, remove the most damaged leaves and keep your fingers crossed,” he said.

Among vegetables, tomato plants could bounce back the best. The stem is so fertile that if the top of the plant is broken off, it can be put into the soil on its own.

“It is going to root in and grow for you,” Evans said.

Evans also noted:

  • Eggplant and pepper plants probably need to be replanted if their stems are broken because the short growing season doesn’t give them enough time to rebound.
  • Some annuals such as sweet potato vine will be fine despite holes from the hail.
  • Impatiens and geraniums may need to be replanted. Petunias can be trimmed to remove damaged areas.
  • Already stressed plants shouldn’t be fertilized.

Evans said there was one positive about the storm: “I am just thankful that it happened early enough that we can replant if we need to.”

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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