Winter beauty

Cobweb covered in ice crystals

I said back in November that winter had arrived and it is now reigning supreme. I will confess I am not a winter person. My most positive memories of winter are of being in the car as a child, pretending to be the ice queen, locked in her frozen palace until I was rescued by my mother, who broke down the palace walls to reach me (or, more prosaically, scraped the ice off the car windows so that she could take me to school).

However, I have been swayed recently by the beauty to be found in winter. There is nothing more inspiring than the winter sun fighting its way through the early morning mist to make the frost sparkle. I went for a walk through the garden on such a morning recently and was struck by how different, and almost magical it felt. Although in deepest midwinter, there was a choir of birds singing in the bare trees, on the frozen rooftops and in the hedges that surround our plot. We are repaying the birds for their song with the last of the windfall apples, which we left under the tree. They are now feeding a range of birds from crows to blackbirds, who we have noticed arrive in groups, first the males and then the females. All that is left of the apple after they have finished is the base and the core – the rest has totally disappeared.

Windfall apple eaten by birds
This apple was very much enjoyed by the blackbirds

We have a lot of evergreen foliage in the garden – more than I had realised last year. The frost gives the leaves a new texture, making the photinia and the hebe in particular look almost like fabric, as if touching them would feel warm and soft, even though the reality would be the opposite. Cobwebs, always a work of art if you look closely, become almost chandelier-like, the ice crystals forming fragile diamonds on their lacy structure. The lawn crunches underfoot and the pampas grass flowers push ever higher into the sky, unaffected by all but the windiest of weather.

Frosty photinia leaves
Frost on the photinia “Pink Marble”

Not that everything enjoys the frost quite as much as I did that morning. Our winter salad, which has thrived up until now, is definitely feeling the cold although, again, the frost enhanced its beauty. The leeks and the sprouts appear to be surviving, but we will need to eat them soon I think. The cats prefer the radiator or the fire to going out and, when they do feel the need to patrol their territory, do so with a funny, bouncing gait, as they try and cross the lawn without getting their paws cold or wet. One day last week the Calamity Cat sat outside with one of her front paws in the air – clearly minimising its contact with the ground. If we leave them outside for a moment longer than they consider absolutely necessary, we are told in no uncertain terms when we let them in that they expect better from their door staff.

Frosty salad leaves
The winter salad in the frost

D also fell foul – quite literally – of the weather one morning when venturing out to put out the bin. He slipped on black ice on the step up to the porch, landing on his back with a crash that frightened both me and the cats inside the house. Although he was bruised and shaken, it could have been worse – all those years curling had at least taught him the safest way to fall on ice and his training kicked in as he went down, protecting his head from injury. As ever, he has been stoic in his pain, and continues to do whatever needs to be done, such as chopping wood for the fire. Hopefully, he will have a little time now to rest and recuperate and will soon be back to full strength.




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