Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Jack Frost

Only a week ago I was collecting holly to deck my boughs, humming a cheerful carol - “The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,” – and thinking how lovely everything looked in the sunshine.

And now I’m freezing! Too smug, we’ve been punished by the spirits with a toe numbing blast of cold weather. Just in time to see the old year out, or the new one in, depending on your perspective. But there is up side to the frost: everything in the garden looks so magical - chillingly beautiful.

I pull the bedroom curtains and there below me is an alien vision – every single element is frosted white: the trees, the shrubs, grass, plants and climbers. The deciduous trees are the most eye catching at first glance, bare branches silhouetted and dramatic.

The garden is – not to sound too corny – a winter wonderland. I can see where those Hollywood visions of winter landscapes come from now. They always look confected to me but now, as I look outside, I can see that they are based on fact. The garden is straight out of a fairytale.

Later, on closer inspection, every element has been transformed. Ivy leaves have silvery glass edging like sugar frosting. Each leaf stands out in relief, no longer one of many but each a tiny work of art. Their veins – hardly noticed when glossy green was the over-riding effect – appear more pronounced, a fine filigree.

And the bright green that was the Arbutus tree of last week now has what appears to be tiny glass bead decoration. The ‘green’ of the garden has been transformed by Jack Frost, the winter painter and decorator.

A corkscrew hazel – always an interesting outline – is even more charming than usual. The leafless branches stand out against the sky and the catkins that hang from them remind me of twinkling Christmas fairy lights.

The old stone ball – long ago toppled from some grand entrance pillar – looks like it’s been given the designer treatment. The moss that grows on the crumbly parts of it is more defined, more textured. It’s taken on the aspect of crusted moonscape and is eerily attractive.

And look, on an old pane of glass (that has no right to be propped up against the garden room wall) has had the Jack Frost treatment. Fern-like outlines and curling, curving shapes make a most beautiful decoration on it – there is little that can improve on nature.

I look, I admire, but then – the veritable wimp – I slink inside for a nice hot cup of tea. Beauty can give a frosty reception and be a cold companion. And so from the comfort of the fireside I appreciate Jack Frost but hope that he’s off to cast his spell elsewhere tomorrow.


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