I didn’t see it coming. There were no signs of stress, no previous scares. But this spring, after at least 19 years of reliable existence, a shrub in front of the house just didn’t make it through the long winter.

It’s not as if I had massive die-off from this year’s winter vortex. Even a Zone 5 plant I gambled on a few years ago is back and raring to go. But the shrub that had been a chore to try to rein in, that turned the sun room into anything but sunny, this year just took a dive and didn’t revive.

I can't accuse myself of overpruning it, because I didn't get around to pruning it at all last year. It has a few signs of winter damage, since our yard is apparently perfect rabbitat, but nothing like the rhododendron that’s still going OK, even if lopped off near the ground. Certainly the damage doesn’t look like anything enough to take down the entire bush.  But after several laissez faire weeks of waiting to see if it was just a slow starter, it’s clearly just a bunch of brittle twigs.

Maybe there’s something more systemic going on, since a bush several shrubs down is also only partly reviving. Maybe there’s another pest I’m not detecting, although that shrub is coming back from the roots quite nicely.

At any rate, I’m now in the market for a new shrub. (Oh, rats. An excuse to go shopping.) Any suggestions for a front-of the-house landscaping bush? It’s going into a spot in between a variegated dogwood and a ninebark, just down from a hydrangea. What have you had good luck with? And has anyone else run into a no-show after years of reliable performance?

Or I could be insane and try to dig up the overgrown weigela that's likely to have to come out to reconstruct our porch and attempt to transplant it. Hmm.