In a Shady Corner: Frosted Hydrangea Flowers

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A climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) grows in a cool and rather dark spot in our garden. It is beside our main seating area, under a laurel that has grown into a large tree.

The laurel’s shade is a very welcome protection from the hot sun in summertime, both for us and for the hydrangea. Without that bit of shade, the hydrangea would struggle to cope with the way heat can build up here.

The RHS describes this plant as ‘best grown in partial shade in a moist but well-drained soil’. Unfortunately, the soil here is rarely moist in summer. (Winter is a different matter!) This was something I did not realise when I planted it many years ago. Nor did I make much allowance for how dry the tree roots must make the area. Nevertheless, the climber has survived, though growing slowly.

From May to July the hydrangea’s white flowers add a cool note to my favourite place to sit. I get to enjoy their grace and airiness from close quarters. By winter any remaining flowers have turned brown and leathery, but a light dusting of frost makes them graceful again.

You can see the summer flowers of Hydrangea petiolaris in this post.

Frosted hydrangea flowers
Frosted hydrangea flowers in a shady corner of my garden.

A Hint of Gold

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The winter chill continues here, with more frozen mornings. Frost brings an icy elegance to the remains of last year’s plant growth. Amongst the most attractive of these frosted plants are the seed heads of Stipa gigantea (golden oats). They become especially lovely when they are coated with a filigree of tiny crystals and backlit by the low morning sun.

The mix of frost and winter sun has brought out the golden tones of the seed heads and made them stand out against their dark background. It’s as if they’ve taken on new life for a short while. On mild days these same seed heads would look drab and dead and would go unnoticed in the garden. A dusting of frost is all it takes to bring subtle details to our attention in winter.

It won’t be long before life is starting again all around the garden. Old leaves and seed heads will be stripped away to make room for spring growth. (I don’t remove these in autumn because they provide shelter for overwintering insects.) For the moment, though, the frost creates its own magic upon the most ordinary of things.

(If you’d like to see how Stipa seed heads look with melting frost, see this post from last year.)

Frosted Stipa gigantea (golden oats)
Frosted Stipa gigantea (Golden Oats)

Frozen Lace

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These well-frosted leaves belong to Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ (a black cut-leaved elder). I was captivated by the way that the shapes of the hoar frost imitated the lacy shapes of the leaves, giving a very decorative effect.

We rarely get hoar frost here. Temperatures don’t normally get low enough for long, but we had a very chilly period before Christmas. For several days we had hard frosts and then snow. It created a magical look to the garden, so I made the most of it and got out there with my camera.

This elder would usually have lost all its leaves by December, but the milder weather in the weeks before must have delayed its urge to shed its leaves. Some leaves, as in the picture below, hadn’t even changed colour but remained a deep blackish-brown.

Right now I am very happy that I have a large stash of frosty photos from last month to use here. It is very grey and wet outside, so the urge to stay warm and dry indoors is strong! There isn’t, anyway, a lot to photograph in the garden in January. (However there are always some jobs to be done whenever the weather is dry enough.) I’m looking forward to the time – not far away – when the new growth starts and the garden comes fully alive again.

Frosted leaves of Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'
Frosted leaves of Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ (black cut-leaved elder).

Winter Roses

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We had a few days of frost and snow towards the end of December. This created lots of opportunities for winter photographs, so you can imagine how pleased I was to see it. (Finding something to photograph for the blog can get difficult at this time of year!)

The warm autumn and mild early winter had encouraged the roses ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (above) and ‘Zepherine Drouhin’ (below) to produce a few very late blooms. I love to photograph frosty and frozen flowers because they’re like little icy sculptures. Sadly the frost brought these particular flowers to an end. Freezing damaged the cells of the petals too much for them to survive once the frost melted.

Most of my frosty pictures are photos of seed heads and leaves, so it makes a change to be able to photograph frosted flowers. Because there are only a few winter-flowering plants in my garden, I’d like to plant more flowers that will appear during this time. That would mean that I have more to enjoy in the garden in winter and more to photograph – that’s always a pleasure!

Frosted rose 'Zepherine Drouhin'

A Happy New Year to You

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It’s time to say goodbye to 2022 and welcome in 2023. I hope that this coming year is a good year for you and treats you kindly. If you celebrate today, I hope you have fun!

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions but I do look back at what I’ve done over the previous year and make a few small plans for the future. One of the main areas that I plan for is, of course, my garden. The biggest step forward with it in 2022 was the completion of the pond, which delighted me by bringing more wildlife into the garden.

In 2023 I have more work to do in the area around the pond to create a bog garden. I also have plans to create more small wildlife areas and perhaps a bit of space for growing veggies for ourselves. It’s very unlikely that I’ll manage to do all the things I want to, but it feels good to have an idea of where it’s all heading. (I might even take time away from the garden to do a bit of printmaking… 🙂 )

Whatever your hopes and plans for 2023 are, I wish you a very Happy New Year. May it bring you health and happiness and peace!