The winter frosts were upon us. It was towards the end of December, the pond had
frozen over and the fish were nowhere to be seen.
The Japanese Garden still has some magic at this time of year. The glint of the
frosts on the boughs of various leafless acers. On the webs of spiders, stretched
across between the branches. The glisten of the ice on the still pond. The tinkle
of the wind chimes in the cold evening breeze. The splash of water as it runs over
the rocks to tumble into the pond below, daring Jack Frost to freeze it into submission
in the icy grip of winter’s chill.
As the first snows appear, they paint a stunning picture on the Japanese ornaments.
The Snow Lantern stands bedecked with its white topped roof. The snows on the bridge,
on the tops of finials, on the roof of the Pavilion. All combine to delight the
senses to natures magical beauty, even in the harshness of the bitter cold of the
North wind, as it sweeps across the garden.
Many of the more delicate plants have succumbed to the ravages of the plunging temperatures.
Various hebes have shown their dislike of such cold. The Gunnera Mannicata has
long since died back, and is delighted to have been wrapped in its gigantic leaves,
to assist it to blossom forth once again, come the springtime. An Escallonia, normally
hardy, has died completely after being buried in snow for a few days, and the Mexican
Flower Blossom show signs of strain as many of the leaves are killed by the cold.
Even the newer leaves of Photinia Red Robin have turned brown, as persistent frosts
and snow keep up their attack.
Three specimens of Dickonsonia Antartica (the Tasmanian tree fern), are delighted
that they have been wrapped up for the winter. Whilst they survived the previous
year, they certainly would not have done so in the current cold spell. A couple
of the more tender bamboos have had similar treatment, and as a result should spring
to life again come the fresh youth of spring.
The birds have been having their own problems with the icy spell. Difficult to feed
on the frozen ground, they have been digging anywhere they can in search of food.
Where the ground has been mulched by chipped bark and fallen leaves they can still,
at least, make some effort to find that life saving crust. Even the dreaded heron
is having problems, as the frozen pond offers no opportunity of a meal. So it sits
on a rock beside the water fountain, and gazes wistfully into the small area of unfrozen
water beside the fountain, hoping, perhaps, for a slow moving fish to venture past,
unaware of the danger.
Nevertheless there is undoubted beauty in the pure clean white of the frosts and
of the snow. And surely there is nowhere more stunning than in the Japanese Garden.
As we await the coming of Springtime we can marvel once again that natures magic
spell has worked again for another year......