Some gardeners fear a cold snap for the effect it might have on tender plants, but there’s no doubt that when the mercury plunges that it can produce some magical results. Frost usually occurs on clear, still nights, when the temperature on the ground or in the air falls below freezing point. A light frost leaves plants looking like they’ve been sprinkled with icing sugar but the impact of a harder, hoar frost are much more dramatic – plants are covered with crystals of ice that are often so thick they can be mistaken for snow.
Walking around the garden on a frosty day can be a wonderful experience. The plumes of grasses, shrubs and the remaining flower stems of perennials, such as echinops, cone flowers and eryngium stand in stark relief under a crisp coating of icy needles. Their beauty can be appreciated at distance, while other plants need to be viewed from closer proximity. Rose hips, holly berries and the fruit of many other plants have the appearance of hand-made sugary comfits, glistening temptingly under a deposit of ice crystals. Frost is not selective and even the most utilitarian plants, such as vegetables, can be turned into things of beauty by its icy touch.