For me, the first really hard frost of the winter is a treasure. There is still novelty value in the ice-rimed leaves and the few remaining leaves on deciduous shrubs and trees bring extra colour to the scene. Usually too, there is a sense of calm and peacefulness, a welcome relief after the autumnal wind and rain. So, when I opened the blinds yesterday to the first hard frost of 2010, I was out in the garden with my camera like a shot…
This time of year fallen leaves predominate and anyone with trees in or near their garden will be all too familiar with the weekly task of raking and bagging. I have a leaf blower/vacuum, which is fantastic for harvesting dry leaves and for dislodging those stubborn piles at the back of flowerbeds and from gravel. Trouble is, dry leaves are not common in my Scottish garden, so I find that running over piles of leaves with the lawn mower on a high setting is an invaluable alternative – chopped leaves decay much faster and take up less space in the leaf mould cage. Works wonders!
The skeletons of plants look fantastic when frosted. This tableau in my front garden features Coryllus avellana ‘Contorta’ (I love it for winter structure, but many hate its warped form and twisted leaves – each to their own, I say); the architectural seed heads of Phlomis russelliana (also great when capped by snow); tawny clumps of Miscanthus sinensis, and the still standing flower spires of Acanthus spinosus.
Another plant that gardeners love to hate is Bergenia. Some find its coarse evergreen leaves too unrefined for their taste, but I think it is a fantastic structural plant, with welcome sprays of pink, red or white flowers in the spring and, as here with Bergenia ‘Ballawley’, fantastic burgundy leave tints in the winter. Behind is the strappy foliage of Deschampsia and Schizostylis.
Here’s a challenge for you … on what plant would you find these seed heads?
When I was doing my Garden Design course, we were charged to collect and identify seed heads for one of the horticultural modules, and these had us all completely stumped (even the very knowledgable lecturer was scratching his head). Answers on a post card please!
I couldn’t resist adding this – frosted spider’s webs are one of the real joys of the winter garden (and the sign of a healthy level of insect life).
Mystery seed head: Buddleia davidii