Last of the Frost?

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Some more frosty pictures for today, but these were all taken a few weeks ago. It looks as if these may be the last frost pictures for this winter because the nights are not so cold now.

February has brought a feeling that, for us, the worst of winter is over. And I know how much I may be tempting fate with that statement! Here’s hoping we don’t get another ‘Beast from the East’ bringing especially wintry weather in the next month or two.

Frosted Campanula Seedheads
Frosted seedheads – probably from a campanula.

We haven’t had very much frost this year, although it has been cold enough on many nights to create a layer of ice on our half-finished pond. There’s been no snow either – in fact snow is starting to be a novelty whenever we do get any. Next time we get a really hard winter it will probably come as a shock, with us being unprepared to deal with it.

The last few days have given me the impression that spring is not so far away. I’m always glad to see the end of January, because I know that February is often mild enough to make working in the garden enjoyable again. There are the first signs of new life – early spring hellebore buds are appearing and there are tiny, tightly-curled new leaves on the honeysuckle.

Frosted Blackberry Leaves
Blackberry ‘Oregon Thornless’ leaves edged with frost.

Soon it will be time to get ready for spring. I’m never very organised when it comes to sowing seeds. Even so, I usually manage to grow something that will give me a new subject to photograph. More important this year, though, will be moving plants around and renovating borders in the garden. There’s plenty to look forward to, and hopefully lots of changes for the better through the year.

Frosted eryngium
The frosted seedheads of an eryngium.

After The Frost

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As a slight change from my frosty photos, I thought I’d post a few pictures of the after-effects of these chilly nights.

After the frost melts, there is a great clarity and brilliance to the water drops that are left behind. While they are still very cold and not entirely melted, they can cling to plants for longer than raindrops would. If you look at them closely, you can see little bubbles trapped inside them.

The plant in the top photograph is Euphorbia mellifera. I’m intrigued by the way the tiniest of droplets gather in a line along the very edges of some of the leaves. This plant is placed where it gets the earliest sunshine, so any frost on it disappears quickly. The melted drops, however, stay, and add a brilliant sparkle to the vibrant green and red leaves.

Water drops on fennel seed head

There’s not much left of the fennel seedhead above. The seeds fell off it ages ago, and now the rest looks quite skeletal. I can imagine that big drop on the right being clutched in bony fingers. It has become something alien-looking, especially with the trail of tiny drops clinging to a stray grass stem that is entangled with it.

There’s even less left of the plant below. I think it’s the remains of the flowering stem of some catnip. Now though, the melted frost has become like little round beads that have managed to attach themselves to the plant – as if they’re some sort of weird plant/glass hybrid.

Drops of melted frost on seed head

The frost on the rose leaves below is still partly frozen and is even more textured with icy ripples and crinkles and lots of bubbles. There’s quite a difference between the irregular shapes of the colder, still icy drops and the more spherical drops that have completely thawed.

The morning I took these photographs I had missed any chance of frost. But I enjoyed having a close look at these drops of melted frost. They add texture and an interesting highlight to the winter garden as they gleam in the morning sun.

Melted frost on rose leaves

Frosted Seed Heads: Wild Carrot

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Back in September I wrote a post about the flowers and seed heads of wild carrot (Daucus carota). I was hoping that the seed heads would last long enough to be frosted when winter arrived. Luckily for me they did, so I had the chance to photograph them. (You can see my original post here: https://annmackay.blog/2021/09/19/going-to-seed-wild-carrot/ )

This wild carrot is a variety named ‘Dara’. It has white flowers that gradually turn a deep burgundy and are very lacy and delicate-looking. The seed heads are just as interesting as the flowers, especially when they curve inwards into a little ‘nest’ which protects the maturing seeds. By this time of the year most of the seeds have escaped (some with a fair bit of help from me) and may become the new plants for future years.

Meanwhile, the remains of the seed heads provide a great framework for frost. The top photograph was taken when the frost was particularly heavy, making it look as if the seed head had been dipped in sugar crystals.

This plant was in a position that is shaded from the early morning sun, so the frost lasts and allows time for photography. The cold lingers here, and the shade from the fence creates a bluish cast which makes it feel even chillier. (The bottom photograph is of a plant that is further from the fence, so frost there doesn’t last as long. It was also taken earlier in the winter, when there was a much lighter frost.)

I’m grateful for simple things like these frosted seed heads in winter, because they keep me supplied with something to photograph. They give me something to enjoy and to marvel at as I look at them closely…and something that is enough to get me outside on an icy winter morning!

Frosted seed head of Daucus carota

A Little Winter Colour

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It always delights me that some flowers can tolerate rough weather to give us a bit of cheering colour at this time of year. Even if the frost eventually proves too much for the tiny flowers of this winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), there are lots of new buds which will soon open to continue the show.

These flowers are especially welcome when almost everything else seems dormant in the coldest days of winter. They encourage me to take a wander round the garden so that I can see them up close and enjoy their exuberant colour.

Unlike other jasmines, winter jasmine isn’t a twining plant. Instead it has very thin and floppy stems which can be easily trained against a fence or trellis. Or you can do what I’ve done – just allow it to weave its way through other shrubs for support. (That does get rather untidy!)

Although it’s said to be an excellent winter nectar-source, I haven’t yet seen bees on it. Perhaps there will be in early spring, as this shrub has a long flowering period. (From December or January right through into March.)

But whether the bees like it or not, I certainly do. These little flowers are brightening an otherwise dark area of the garden like a sprinkling of yellow stars. They bring some joyful colour to the garden as it waits for spring.

Winter jasmine flowers

Caught by the Frost: Frosted Flowers

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The cold has returned and it feels more like winter after the very mild New Year. There has been more frost and the new pond has had a covering of ice. What a change from the previous days that were more like mid-autumn!

The frost has caught a few flowers in the garden. Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ (top photo) is a reliable flowerer for winter and often gets a little bit of icy decoration. The phildadelphus below is a summer-flowering shrub but somehow managed to produce the few flowers here. They make an unusual frosty image, but I wonder if the warming climate will make occasional winter flowers on this shrub more likely.

The unusually warm temperatures over the last few weeks must have been confusing for plants and for wildlife too. I’ve noticed the occasional bumblebee buzz past me while I’ve been working in the garden. It’s not unusual to see one or two out of hibernation on a sunny day. They seem to prefer the mahonia flowers to the viburnum, but maybe it depends on what the choice of flowers is, and what stage they’re at.

In any case, I think I should add some new plants to expand the choices for any bees active at this time of year. (Winter-flowering heathers, aconites, crocuses, hellebores and winter-flowering honeysuckle are all frequently recommended. As are willows, but I wouldn’t have room for one of those!) For now, I’m hoping that the bumblebees are safely tucked up and asleep – it’s cold out there!

Frosted Philadelphus flowers

Wishing You a Happy New Year!

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It’s New Year’s Eve as I’m typing this, and it has been a strangely warm day for the time of year. Not a trace of wintry weather. The frost that I photographed here happened a few days before Christmas, so is long gone.

I was lucky to get that one frosty morning so that I could take a few sparkly photos for my Christmas and New Year posts. It’s amazing how frost can make the most ordinary of things look special. (Top photo is the remains of an aster, bottom is a young fennel plant that has flopped over in the cold.)

2021 has been a year of enjoying small, simple things here. The garden has been an ever-increasing source of happiness and has given me a sense of purpose when life has been rather constricted. I hope that 2022 is a year that will bring us back to being able to live our lives safely and healthily.

For 2022, I wish you all a year of joy, health and peace. May it be a year that brings you delight in life. Happy New Year!

Frosted fennel plant

Frosty Christmas Decorations

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As this is the last post here before Boxing Day, I reckoned it was time to post some natural ‘Christmas decorations’ created by the frost. These are from a couple of years ago – there hasn’t been enough frost for photography yet this year. (But there probably will be in January, as it’s usually colder then.)

I’m relieved that we haven’t had much frost yet because I have lots of plants sitting around in pots. They’re waiting for me to use them in a border renewal, but work has gone more slowly than I expected. The plants will probably be OK, because they’re in quite big pots and are mostly very hardy. Even so, I always feel a bit guilty about the possibility that they may freeze and worry about them making it ’til next spring.

The border I’m re-planting is an area that has partly been taken over by Japanese anemones. It stretches to the side of the new pond. (The pond is still a big black hole at the moment – I’m hoping that it will fill up with rain or snow over the winter.) It feels good to be able to keep going with this while the weather isn’t too cold.

Until it does get really wintry, I’ll keep pottering about in the garden. For Christmas though, I’ll take refuge in the warmth indoors. I’ll probably spend most of the time curled up on the sofa with hubby and the two cats, lots of good books, plenty of tasty food and (very likely) a generous amount of wine. (Maybe even something decent on the TV.) Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, I hope that it’s a good one, and that it brings you much happiness. I wish you and your families and friends good health and good cheer. 🙂

The Ordinary Made Special: Frost

It’s the end of January and I hope that these are the last frost photographs I’ll share for a while. Although this winter hasn’t been very cold, I just can’t wait for it to end. I’m ready to see new growth and to welcome the first flowers of spring.

Despite my impatience for the cold weather to be over, I’m grateful for a bit of frost. Without it, there would be very little to photograph here in winter. There would be much less to tempt me outside for a wander around the garden too.

With frost, the garden is transformed from being a soft and soggy mess of dying vegetation into somewhere crisp and rigid. It feels utterly changed, alien even. Plant remains that would normally go unnoticed stand out as the frost makes them into something new.

frosted plants

The smallest of things can suddenly be full of photographic possibilities. Tiny seed-heads, old leaves, the dried stems of decorative grasses – these can become features that demand attention. The frost emphasises the delicate nature of these small things. It can make a plant look like a piece of fragile lace or as if it has been dipped in sugar. And if the sun is shining, the garden can come alive with the sparkle of all those millions of tiny crystals.

So I won’t be ungrateful for the beauty that winter can produce. I’ll try to be patient while I wait for spring to arrive. But I can’t help being excited to see the signs that the spring isn’t far away. Now there are green daffodil buds starting to appear and the first of my hellebores has come into flower. And I’m off out into the garden to photograph them…

frosted hydrangea

Frosted Seed-Heads

After last week’s snow-capped anemone seed-head, today we have seed-heads that are covered in frost. In the middle of winter I’m really glad to find anything to photograph in the garden, so I’m grateful that these are here.

On a frosty morning, these seed-heads create a focal point and some interesting textures in the garden. They become like miniature natural sculptures when their details are picked out by frost crystals. I find that seeing the patterns of frost encourages me to look more closely at the plant’s own structure. That allows me to see possible photographs where I may not have noticed them before.

frosted honesty seed pods
The remains of honesty seed-pods sparkle in the sunshine.

Mind you, sometimes there’s very little left of the seed-heads, as you can see with the honesty above. These are pretty-well wrecked by now but, given a bit of sunshine to make the frost sparkle, still manage to look interesting. Of course, on a dull but mild day, with no frost or sunshine, they don’t look at all pretty at this stage. So it’s amazing what the right weather can do.

Amongst the best of the seed-heads for frost photography are the umbellifers. There are usually quite a lot of self-sown bronze fennel seedlings around the garden and these really sparkle on a frosty morning. I never cut these down until spring, because the seeds can provide food for hungry birds. (As well as starting lots more plants.) The delicate decorations that they become is a delightful winter bonus.

frosted fennel seed head
Fennel seeds look at their best with a thick coating of frost.

Snow Day

We were greeted by snow this morning, but by the time you read this it will be gone. It won’t last for even the full day because it has now started to rain.

But it has given me an excuse to post an image with just a little bit of wet snow. This is a seed-head of a Japanese anemone. I was attracted to photographing it by the cap of melting snow that it’s wearing, and by the way the drops of meltwater are clinging to the fluffy hairs of the seeds.

It’s interesting to see how these seed-heads start as perfect tiny spheres and then erupt into little woolly clusters of seeds that can float away in the wind. I allow them to stay in the garden over the winter. A few years ago, tidy-minded gardeners would insist that the old stems and seed-heads ought to be cut back and taken away at the end of the year. Times have changed, and now we’re encouraged to leave them standing as a habitat and food for wildlife.

With luck, goldfinches will come and help themselves to these seeds. (I’ve already noticed them eating the seeds of verbena bonariensis in the last week.) And if the heads survive until springtime, the remainders will probably be gathered up when the goldfinches are building their nests. I often see these birds with their beaks full of the fluffy seeds and think that they must be creating the cosiest and most comfortable homes for their babies. So I won’t be cutting back any of these seed heads. The birds are very welcome to them.