It happens every winter. The house wakes up to find a frosty blanket covering the garden. A frost! Yeay! No gardening will be possible, until until the morning sun warms things up a bit.
The gardening year is a grand cycle of growth and decay, full of naturally occurring, defining moments. I've read about 'the first snowdrop', and known gardeners who can chronicle to the hour the unfurling of the first rose bud. Sensitive gardeners out there just know that it's the first day of Spring, or know exactly when to pounce on the first aphid of the rose season and squash it.
Defining Gardening Moments
The first frost should be one of these defining gardening moments. Granted, it can be an anticlimax. The frost in question will be rather slight. Some lawns might be covered in a thin blanket of whiteness, but garden borders more sheltered will show little evidence. The Nasturtiums won't necessarily die just yet, the Gunnera leaves will keep on trying their best to stay green...
I have trouble experiencing defining gardening moments at the best of times. I don't notice the first daffodils until days after their arrival. I suddenly realise that my earliest rose Fruhlingsmorgen has been blooming for at least a week - petals are starting to fall off. I've never yet managed to spot the very first aphid, and I know there must be one.
Frost on Rose Leaves
Yet I spend hours in my garden peeping, gazing, sitting, or just wandering around, trying not to miss anything. I've even made lists of blooming arrivals for all the beds, I've sat and stared at wall calendars, I've drawn up spreadsheets, written lots of those 'Things to Do In May' type lists...
Poor Frosted Rose!
One pre-winters day, in a hurry getting ready to go to work, I remember seeing my semi-naked son leaping around outside in the chilly early morning gloom. Just out of the shower and wrapped in a small towel, he was taking photographs of grass blades.
Brr... It's Cold Outside
I thought about strange cold-country customs I'd read about - racing outside into the snow, naked, then leaping into hot steam baths, that sort of thing. What on earth was he doing? But I was running late, so I grabbed my teacher things and left. A case of pre-winter madness, maybe.
Frost on Gunnera
The next day I worked it out. Yet again, I'd missed the first frost - that inevitable, fateful, defining first frost. I knew it was imminent. I'd been shifting pots of pelargoniums and daisies into the glass-house, and taking cuttings of all the half-hardy perennials I use so much. Each weekend I'd whispered a fond farewell to the big white floppy dahlias, warning them of their fate.
Well, I've still got those original first frost photographs. And to be perfectly honest, there's hardly any frost to be seen in them. The first frost is certainly not the deepest...