Last week Jack Frost paid the South East a visit, spreading his icy fingers over fields, woods and gardens. The scenes at sunrise were breathtaking, a great satsuma of a sun illuminating layer after layer of petrified countryside. I was lucky enough to be out and about in Berkshire on one of those magical mornings, watching the day dawn over the River Thames. A gaggle of Canada geese joined me, hopeful of a free breakfast.
It’s been a while since I last set foot on grass so frozen that it crunched under foot. Where worm casts had appeared they were transformed into toe-stubbing doorstops of earth. Crisp beech leaves, always so persistent, littered the frozen sward. Every dessicated leaf was fringed with fragile ice crystals.
Faded herbaceous perennials, left in situ for days like these, formed a Jurassic forest of twisted and broken stems, each densely felted with ice crystals. Birds darted low and fast between the crippled plants, fervently seeking food and shelter.
The star of the shiver-inducing show was diminutive Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (otherwise known as Lilyturf), prized for its strappy black leaves but surely never more striking than when encrusted with feathery ice crystals?
Thankfully Mr Frost has given both our gardens a wide berth this winter, but how long we’ll escape his icy grip, nobody knows.