Hoar Frost & Winter Gardens

February 27, 2013 | Lawns, Turf & Grass, Plants, Trees

hoar frost on a winter garden

Have you ever heard that bit about their being lots of Eskimo words for snow? True or not, it is a fact that we more commonly use words for things we experience commonly.  So I offer that as an explanation for why I (at least) haven’t really ever heard of hoar-frost.  Frost has always just been frost for me.  But I recently came across the term and on further investigation, I learned that not only is there a special kind of frost called hoar-frost, but there are other types too (advection frost, white frost, rime and window frost).

hoar frost on a winter garden

We don’t get hoar-frost too often in New England.  When I lived in England I noticed it relatively often.  I also remember it to be a little more common back home in Colorado.  Hoar frost and if it is something that you get with any regularity,  is something well worth considering when planning your garden.

hoar frost on a winter garden

Hoar frost turns a garden into a magical fairy land.  Rime (which is a thicker ice version) rips gardens apart (particularly if you have trees pine trees).  The difference is dramatic.

hoar frost on a winter garden

We garden writers and designers have this tendency to go on and on about planning for 4 seasons of beauty, and I’m not knocking that.  But if you don’t ever get hoar-frost….you need to make different considerations for your winter garden.  If you get a lot of rime…you should also make special considerations.  If you get hoard frost you should plant and leave your grasses and sculptural plants untrimmed through the winter so that you can enjoy their beautiful frosty sculpture.  You should focus on shapes that persist through the winter.  But if you don’t, it doesn’t matter so much.   if you get rime, you should cut back on the weak limbed pines that will surely lose massive branches when the weight of the ide takes them down.

hoar frost on a winter garden

I am envious of places that get hoar-frost.  Looking at my tattered and tired grasses that just get knocked down by snow I have resolved to make myself happier next winter and cut them back in the fall.  I’m giving up my hoar-frost hopes and starting to think about what will look winter good with a pile of snow on it or what will look good with just nothing as we have our share of barren winters too.  Maybe I am just feeling defeated by the 10′ pile of snow at the end of my driveway….but I think it’s time to be realistic about a New England winter garden.

How about you, do you get hoar frost where you live?  Does it make sense for you to plan for a magical wonder land?  

images telegraph and maison and jardin via la pouyette, a year from oak cottage

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Blog Comments

this is a great post, Rochelle. Thanks, Deborah

Hoar-frost turns the garden into a magical place. I never stop being amazed at the beauty of God’s creation. It is magnificent! Thanks for the wonderful post.

Nice post great information Rochelle. Love the winter garden always hoping for some snow…with in reason! – thanks!

Sadly, we rarely get frost of any kind out here (don’t hate me), but this winter we have 2 or 3 days of real, true frost (not quite hoar frost…but close). It was absolutely transformative…the garden went from being sad and soggy to glowing overnight!

That is so beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen hoar frost! Winters here in Tennessee are always a little disappointing for me, since they usually involve rain instead than snow or frost. I would love to someday wake up to a garden filled with frost like that.

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