sunshine on the back porch

Can you feel my landscaping pain?

This was the winter to end all winters.  It was cold and then it would warm slightly and then plunge us into cold again.

And again.

And then it would snow and sleet and with heavy rains day after day.

Week after week.

And all the plants and shrubs and trees sat in that wet, wet soil.

And now they look like this.


sunshine and sticks

Hollys that have stood for 25 years reduced to a pile of twigs.

Nandinas without a leaf.

My sweet, wonderful magnolia tree with dark, shriveled leaves and withered branches.

Boxwoods taller than me without a single new growth.

sunshine and flowers

We called a local gardening expert to assess the damage.

He walked around the property and picked and prodded and checked the roots and snapped a few branches.  And I should have known the news wouldn’t be good when he approached us shaking his head.  He sighed and shrugged and said the word that made my heart plummet.


Almost every large, over-sized bush.


sunshine and distressed wood

Years and years and years those shrubs and plants and trees have stood.

Wiped out with a single winter.

I could have sobbed.

And wept.

And shook my fist at the skies and the weather.

And I did for a moment.

sunshine and color

And then the sunshine came.

It shone into every nook and cranny and filled the house with light and laughter and joy.

It danced across my back porch and the old antique floors in the living room and poured into the kitchen through the shutters.

Light and life everywhere I looked.

sunshine and the back meadow

And it brought with it green grass in the back meadow.

And beautiful, wonderful oak leaves creating dancing shadows across the grass.

I stood on the back porch yesterday as the sunshine wrapped itself around the farmhouse and warmed my face and my heart.

And I realized that into every life a few withered leaves must fall.  Life isn’t easy.  

I know.

I understand.

The bends and turns in the road are full of highs and lows like we never imagined.  The days can get frustrating and overwhelming and lonely.  It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have or didn’t accomplish or what mountain we must climb and forget about what we have or the amazing things we have accomplished or the steps in the journey we have already taken.

And so today I’m turning my face to embrace the warmth.

Today I’m eating my eggs sunny side up.

Today I’m letting today be enough.

Today I choose sunshine. 🙂

sunshine and leaf

PS  Look what I found on one of the hollys this morning.

I’m “leafing” the rest to the sun. 🙂

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  1. Image for Peg Peg

    So sorry you lost so many mature plantings after the harsh winter...but like the holly bush, which has so many Christmas meanings, we always have hope! : )

  2. Image for Marian@CMShawStudios Marian@CMShawStudios

    Hey girl, you're about out of rooms anyway. This is your big chance to partner with Home Depot or something and learn how to landscape design, decorate the outside. Knowing you, there is already something in the works. So sorry for such a sad prognosis though. That's a bummer. But it looks like your beautiful trees made it. And less shrubs means more light for FLOWERS. Go crazy with those annuals this year! By fall, it will look like a party! Bless you and your sunny outlook love. I love this post. The Other Marian

  3. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    The winter before last...remember the polar vortex...we lost so much. It's taken us 2 years to replace everything...lots of work...we are almost done. The best part...our yard looks better than it did before. Mother Nature has given you a chance to do something different! Call it a landscaping adventure...and let the sun do the rest! ;)

  4. Image for Dianne Bell in Michigan Dianne Bell in Michigan

    So sorry the lousy winter caused so much loss, but, I LOVE how you turned yourself around and focused on the Sunshine and the good. We all need to focus on the "Sunshine" in our lives when we have times that make us sad or challenge us. Good for you,KariAnne! Lesson for us all. AND, looky there, a holly leaf bursting forth! That Holly Bush is gonna surprise you yet!! As my Dear Mom always said, "Keep your sunny side up". ☀️

    1. Image for annel annel

      I could not have said it better! As a landscape designer I know all to well how sad it is to lose plants,trees and bush`s that are years old :''( YES, replanting can turn out better than before in many cases, SOOO Karianne, get those shovels and gloves out and step into the glorious SUNSHINE!! BLESSINGS...<3

  5. Image for mary mary

    Don't give up on your Nandinas yet. We're in MD and last week ours were naked with black berries and just today I see new growth on every one!

  6. Image for Lisa at celebrate creativity Lisa at celebrate creativity

    Hi Karianne, Love your back meadow". What a beautiful locale for a family picnic. Yes, tough winter for everyone. I have some front shrubs that suffered serious "cold burn" on many of the leaves. I hope they recover. The flip side is that my "knock-out" roses are practically indestructible (as long as I can keep the deer off them) and they survive every winter. They're on the verge of blooming now and I'm so excited. Good luck with your future landscaping efforts. Happy day to you, Lisa

  7. Image for Stephanie Brown Stephanie Brown

    Oh I so understand damage left behind in the Bluegrass. It does hurt your heart. But man that sun is something else after the rains and snow falls we had. Can't wait to See what you do!!! I am Going to try and plant more bee and butterfly friendly plants. Have always loved butterfly bush promise it works! Purple better than Pink for me! Please keep us posted on your yard u haul!:) looking for sun in my part of KY!!!

  8. Image for Judie Judie

    Kari, I feel your pain! I live in upstate NY & this was the winter that wouldn't quit, just started warming up last week. I have a Holly hedge that just started looking really good last fall that was hit really hard, lost an apple tree that just started bearing fruit & 25 yr old Euonymus that never was affected before. Mother Nature is a powerful force that we can't control, she shows us her fury, then takes pity on us by distracting us with green grass, leaves appearing practically over night on trees & the most striking Spring flowers.

  9. Image for Danielle Danielle

    So inspiring today. We had a lot of shrubs get disturbed this winter as well, however with lots of love, care, fertilizer and some pruning they are all coming back. Don't give up yet. Nature as a way of surprising you.

  10. Image for Karie Karie

    Thank you for your post today - I needed it! I live in Columbus, OH and we lost most of our bushes this year as well. Winter was harsh! We lost 3 rose bushes, a Japanese maple and our tulips and daffodils suffered as well - one thing that didn't seem to be affected was the weeds! The sun does seem to make it all ok, doesn't it? It has been a crazy year on the weather front but I am so happy to see the sunshine! Enjoy your week!

  11. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    I live in Southern Indiana and we had a rough winter too. Thought we had lost all of our butterfly bushes but they are slowly coming out. Hopefully more of my landscaping plants will do the same---hang in there!!!

  12. Image for Toni M Toni M

    What a wonderfully grateful statement to read this Monday morning. Thank you for your appreciation for the ongoing shining of the sun.

  13. Image for Judy Judy

    I love your perspective on life. You always bring sunshine to whatever topic you choose. Thank you for this. Your words are an inspiration to always face towards the sun.

  14. Image for Pat Pat

    Thanks for your sunny inspiration~ We're coping with a drought and I know the feeling of looking at our trees, shrubs etc. that aren't going to survive...however, your words filled my heart and I know things will get better at some point in time!

  15. Image for Michele Michele

    Sending you sunny and green hugs today. We lost a bunch the winter before last so I feel your pain, We lost just a few this year, as we prepared ourselves a little better this time around, expecting another harsh winter. I love your attitude though, and that little holly leaf says it all, doesn't it? Nature wins after all. : - )

  16. Image for Jeri Lynne Holcomb Jeri Lynne Holcomb

    Mine too. But my holly trees are slowly coming back and my nandinas, which were totally bare, are sprouting green leaves. I was told to prune back the black burnt branches and wait. The sun is working magic. My knock out roses, not so good.

  17. Image for Michelle Rudis Michelle Rudis

    I just love your posts so much. This one is no exception. From one who has faced loss and found hope in seemingly hopeless situations, thank you for sharing!

  18. Image for Shirley Shirley

    Here in England we had a very mild winter& had a very sunny April. We kept seeing on the News programmes what a hard winter you were having in the States. We would never cope with it here . A few inches of snow grounds the country to a halt! You do get attached to plants & bushes. I am mourning over the destruction the new owners have done to my garden in my old house. They have taken in winter a large hydrangea bush & caster oil plant right down to the ground. They will not recover & I don't think they intend them to. Wish now I'd found some way to dig them up. I need to let it go!! Love seeing in my in box that I have a new post from you.

  19. Image for Regina Regina

    We drove along Paducah's "Dogwood Trail" the other night, and I was amazed at how many azalea bushes had blooms on JUST the lower half - just like mine! My newer ones, that is. The old one that came with the house was PERFECT this year. And my rose bush, that almost died last summer? Coming back like crazy and already has buds on it. My SIL, on the other hand, has the same holly problems you have! Awful. But, look at it this way. You know how people tend to let their shrubs overtake their houses and can't stand to cut them down? You will not have that problem. :) And they may still make a come-back, as shown in your last pic! But the TREES. How perfect are THEY? Honestly, I think I'm enjoying Spring even MORE this year just because it was such a horrific winter. It's reinforced the idea that if I retired to another area, it would be in the SOUTH! Happy Spring, sweet girl.

  20. Image for Jackie Jackie

    I know how you feel. After the same weather patterns as you, only in the north part of Texas...we were seeing everything thing finally turning green, leafing out, spring flowers budded out and ready to bloom and pow came a 20 minutes hail storm that beat the thunder out of everything but the good news is there are some of them struggling to come back. Hoping yours will surprise the landscaper because the real Landscaper has finally say!

  21. Image for bj bj

    Did u hear shrill whistling, feet-stomping, arms waving, hollering 'Way to go, Karie Anne..." ? That was me....all the way from sun shiny Texas.....:)

  22. Image for Erin Pickett Erin Pickett

    Your best post, ever! Thank you for sharing words of encouragement - not just about our homes and our yards, but our hearts and souls. God bless!

  23. Image for Regena Fickes. Regena Fickes.

    I surely hope you did not have your magnoilia cut down. Many years ago (I think 32) our town was home to an incredible octogenerian magnolia. It truly belonged to one sweet family, but we all were so proud of this tree. The ice storm that year was magnificent! If we had know about Frozen, we would have laughed and made rude noises of derision. That beautiful, noble magnolia was pronounced dead by an expert. Many shook their heads in sorrow and went one last time to pay their respects. The lovely giant was toppled, cut up and hawled off. A couple of months later another expert (from a well known university} pronounced that if left to its own devices, the magnolia would have lived to leaf again. Don;t give up hope. Loved the post, btw.

  24. Image for ananda ananda

    oh i would be crying too karianne!! such a beautiful post though, and the majestic tree is stunning!! let's hope the expert is wrong, or at least 80% wrong, it happens a lot! keep dreaming and loving!! xoxo

  25. Image for Kathleen Hall Kathleen Hall

    Love your make me laugh out loud, inspire me, and you are so down to earth!! ....and love love those dishes. the tiny and large polka dots are perfect for summer dining!!

  26. Image for Marita Marita

    Thank you for this post. I thought I was the only one who was feeling this way. 7 years ago I had to relocate to the plains near Colorado Springs and it's like no place I've ever lived. There was nothing growing on the property and I have planted and nurtured trees, shrubs and perennials but I don't seem to be able to keep anything alive from one winter to the next spring. The high winds all year, long droughts in the summer and all other problems had me so depressed. Now after reading your post, I know I will try again and hope to plant something that can survive.

  27. Image for Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns

    Sorry to hear this :( Perhaps it's a nice opportunity to do something new or different - even if you hadn't planned on it. It was an odd winter all over the country this year. My trees started budding in February and my grass was green by March. Our plants survived, confused, but alive. Hopefully next year will be better!

  28. Image for Norma Jean Norma Jean

    KarieAnn, I feel your pain. I spent most of the day trimming shrubbery and digging out those that did not make it through the winter. Lots of bare spots now begging for replacements. I also feel your joy as I marvel at how green everything is. I guess we need the dark days of winter to truly appreciate the glorious sunshine of spring. I, like you, choose gratitude and joy for what is, rather than what was!

  29. Image for Janis Janis

    Shrubs are valuable assets to a home landscape, but they do out grow the usefulness. And sometimes, just sometimes, there are hidden gems yet to be discovered. Can you image using the same mattress for 25 years! No? Maybe using the same sofa for that long? Nah, not that either. It is much the same with plants. They become overgrown, out grow their intended space, and simply do not look as good as they once did. And 25 years is about all one can expect from a shrub. Just think of the possibilities: a fresh start, new bloom color, easier to maintain. Oh the possibilities..

  30. Image for Dorothy Lee Dorothy Lee

    One of the main reasons I love gardening are the many life lessons it teaches us - hope, beauty, disappointment, loss, renewal, change - it's all there. I live in eastern Pennsylvania and my nandinas just started to show signs of life. Don't give up hope!

  31. Image for Beth Beth

    So eloquently put dear lady and so applicable on many levels. I needed to read this post today and want you to know that I agree and needed that reminder. I know a few others that will benefit from it as well. Thank you for the inspiration to us all!

  32. Image for Janet Janet

    That is disappointing. When I am selecting plants and trees for my yard, I have to look for things for zone 3. So many of these things are never an option for me. Oh well. That does make for a striking picture anyway... those bare twig bushes almost look like they are brushed with snow and the rest is lush green spring. Our grass in this part of Minnesota is just greening up.

  33. Image for Maureen Maureen

    Sadly, this is a lesson those of us who garden have to learn over and over. A few years ago, I lost a 3ft high rosemary that was bred for our winters. Well, it was bred for our normal winters and that year wasn't normal The loss that's hitting me the most is my neighbor's many fig trees. All dead. If his are dead, then that means all the trees that belong to the local Cyrpiot community are gone. No figs this year at the Farmers' Market. But my neighbor's spring onions are thriving so life goes on. That's the Sunshine!

  34. Image for Kim L Kim L

    Your post broke my heart :( Your positive attitude is truly inspirational so I am going to go make some lemonade with all my lemons!

  35. Image for Sue Sue

    Noooo! That's awful! What a winter :-( I, too, would've been shaking my fist at the sky Cap'n Dan Stylie. I do so admire your positivity in the face of such devastation, but Mother Nature is a wonderful thing. Just as the sun will shine, she will replenish. Eventually. Big love from across the puddle x

  36. Image for Jaimee Jaimee

    I am so sorry about your loss! Shrubs and trees really can feel like old friends. In Alaska we pray year to year that not only is the winter kind to our hardy plants, but that the moose don't eat them all to nubs by spring! I was trying to think of how disappointing losing so many traditional shrubs would feel, and then wondered if it may be an opportunity to do something completely different in those spaces? A gazebo, or pretty fence....or garden swing? God's thoughts are rarely our thoughts, but His ways of "making a way when their seems to be no way" can gradually become OUR ways as we surrender to Him. Praying for that sunshine to continue fill you with joy!

  37. Image for Lynnette Martin Lynnette Martin

    Spent the last couple of nights at the garden centers. For us, here in Northern Illinois it was the last 2 winters. Maybe I didn't notice this years because most of it has been pulled out. Amazing thing was the architecture of the ranch was revealed again with some of them gone. That was my sunshine!

  38. Image for Rebecca Turner Rebecca Turner

    When life gives you lemons...seems like you're prepared to make lemonade! We lost a half dozen trees a couple of years ago in the summer, do to drought...and to a certain type of beetle that takes advantage of drought...but I'm actually glad. Because I was getting too old to sweep up all of the pine needles. (I'm not really ancient yet, but I have a back problem, so I can't do it anymore.) I plan to put in an arbor for shade, instead. Maybe you'll choose something different for your place, but if your plants do "spring" to life, maybe the arborist will have some suggestions to help protect them next winter. Hay maybe?

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