Ice sculptures
Amateur Gardening|January 22, 2022
The winter garden can be a true wonderland if you plan and plant to really make the most of the frost, says Graham Rice
Graham Rice

FOR gardeners, winter can be the most beautiful and the most worrying time. Fragile flowers are suddenly blasted by sudden plunges in temperature and early morning sun can frazzle frozen buds. But even without a single flower actually in bloom, your garden can still be beautiful.

Evergreens, hedges, trees, perennials, grasses – all take on a special sparkle in winter. Whether edging flower beds or bordering the whole garden, evergreens with small leaves shine the brightest. The frost shines most along the leaf edges and a large number of small leaves provides a greater length of leaf edge than a small number of larger leaves.

Choices for low hedges

Box is the classic, of course, especially for low hedges. Yet in recent years box has become less dependable, plagued as it is by an increasing number of pests and diseases. Lonicera nitida is the best alternative, and varieties especially well suited as low hedges, such as the Garden Clouds series, are now being introduced.

Conifers, with so much detail in their foliage, are also very effective – green leaves, rather than gold. Deciduous trees with a distinctive shape, including weeping birches, or with coloured bark such as dogwoods and some of the smaller maples – all glitter prettily in the chilly morning spring frost.

And when the morning rime silvers the evergreen hedges and lights up the last leaves of the grasses, we’re reminded of why it is that we wait, and then wait a little longer, before cutting down all those perennials.

The top choices

Grasses are top choices among perennials for winter ice sculptures, nodding dark-flowered hellebores collect the frost on their backs, while seedheads and dried perennial stems, of course, are invaluable. Look out, too, for the bold ruffled foliage of dark-leaved heucheras, not to mention the veined foliage of some overwintering vegetables.

Red berries, dark foliage and silvery rime represent the classic Christmas look – hollies, cotoneasters, pyracanthas are all easy to grow and accommodating. The blueberries of viburnums, mahonia, gaultheria and berberis also look good in the morning chill. And please, don’t just admire the wintry scene while looking out from indoors. It’s hat-and-scarf time, so spend a few minutes outside admiring it all in close-up.

6 for frost and snow

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