In typical times, I like to remind readers to take stock of the garden at the end of the growing season and make plans for improvements in the months ahead. Unfortunately, there was nothing normal about this year and the mess in my garden will require a new start rather than a few tweaks in 2017.

As the year began, the ground was completely saturated with a deluge of rain received in the last quarter of 2015. Then, precipitation in January, February, and early March sustained those moist conditions, creating havoc when spring storms swirled with high winds.

In mid-March, three huge trees in the woodland behind our home fell like dominos towards the Reedy River, with one taking down the next. Just weeks later, in early April, a second storm toppled a massive oak onto a neighbor’s house, crushing it like it was made of balsa wood.

Within a few days, fearful of pushing our luck any longer, Tim and I decided to remove two other hardwoods showing signs of imminent collapse—one with a split trunk and the other with a dying canopy.

Despite these upsets, the early bloom season was one of the best in recent years, and I tried to be pragmatic about the garden’s losses. I often complained about the dense shade and reasoned fewer trees would provide more light. Plus, I liked the new sense of openness in…