Ice: beauty or beast?

If there's one thing that makes winter scary to a cold-climate gardener it's ice. Nothing has the potential for breaking the bones of a garden like an ice storm, when decades-old trees and other cornerstone plants can be damaged beyond recovery literally overnight. The number of dead limbs and twigs in my front yard is evidence of that -- I'm not sure yet if my plants made it unscathed.

Ice has another side though: I don't think there's anything in winter that can bring out the beauty in small garden details like a good coating of ice. Today I want to share this aspect of winter with you.


I'm a cleanup-the-garden-in-spring gardener, so there is a wide array of dead plant stuffs to become frosted, but I always go to the grasses and grassy plants first.

But then barren twigs catch my eye...

...where drab wintery stems become almost magical, their colors enhanced in a sleeve of glassiness.

Then the grasses catch my eye again:

But the finer grasses (like the Mexican feather grass above) don't do as well with their icicle jackets, and collapse exhausted.

It takes something with more structure like the papyrus inflorescences, those amazing tufts that satisfy all year round:

Grasses are good in ice, but cactus might be better:

Perhaps its the shock of seeing these heat-loving plants encased in the essence of winter, or maybe there's a subconscious knowing that I might actually touch these plants now, their protection rendered less useful by the layers of slick.

Beautiful, whatever the reason.

The hyacinth vine tangle looked especially good...

...with each stem whitened, almost blazingly bright:

It was better in person of course.

I'm not sure what the total accumulation of ice was. They had predicted 1/4" (6mm) but thankfully we did not get that much:

Maybe half that amount?

Even the lawn had its beauty revealed, when normally it takes a good snowfall to make it better:

Ice and bamboo don't mix well -- but I'll show you what I mean in another post. I did discover something amazing with the big-leaved bamboos though:

Ghost leaves!

Nearly perfect duplicates, rendered in surprising detail by temporary glass.

My favorite discovery of the morning!

Grasses, twigs, cactus, bamboo -- the evergreen conifers are next. The Chamaecyparis (I've forgotten which one I have) becomes almost solid...

...and what's this? Some gravitational anomaly? Evidence of gale-force winds overnight?

No, just a frozen branch, twisted 90 degrees as it struggles to support the weather's weighted gift.

My mugo pine, taking on a different color, striking against the slightly ruddy backdrop of matted miscanthus:

The best though was the contorted pine...

...its twisted needles catching the light in a special way, turning the tree magical.

Why didn't I take a photo of the whole thing?

Probably too much to take in, as almost everything out here is worth a close look.

I have to conclude that ice is more beauty than beast, at least in my garden. What do you think?

I haven't been posting much lately because the bakery and workshop have been taking up so much time, and there has been little garden-wise to share. The new year, two weeks off, and a camera loaded with images will change that: more regular posts coming!


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Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (January 16, 2017 at 9:11 AM)  

Beautiful photos! When the sun or night lights shine on the iced plants, it's magical.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 16, 2017 at 11:00 AM)  

Truly stunning photos even though it's a dangerous kind of beauty. I hope the damage is limited.

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening  – (January 16, 2017 at 1:49 PM)  

Your icy views are beautiful. There is something fabulous about nature's artwork, and you have certainly captured it!

Hoover Boo  – (January 16, 2017 at 11:23 PM)  

Beauty and beast--can we have one without the other?

outlawgardener  – (January 16, 2017 at 11:47 PM)  

Your shots of the ice are glorious! Love the ghost leaves. We haven't had an ice storm here for several years, thank goodness, but it's sure beautiful when it happens. Hope your plants weren't seriously damaged.

Lisa  – (January 17, 2017 at 6:34 AM)  

Just gorgeous! There's beauty in all of nature if you know where to look!

Glad to see you back!

chavliness  – (January 18, 2017 at 10:35 AM)  

Its good of you see the beauty in the ice. I'd be worried and maybe too distraught to notice. But you pictures are great. Love those pine needles individually encased.

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