Hat Trick

Hat trick: three successes of the same kind, especially consecutive ones within a limited period.

Three honeybees, working the glorious goodness of Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, focused only on their goal of nectar gathering, offered zero attention–no buzzes, no curious fly-bys–to the human with three eyes as she bumbled through the garden.

This time of year, the second spring of Central Texas, when autumn perennials burst forward in floral song, after the hot summer and before winter’s chill, it’s not at all challenging to find pollinator hat tricks working varieties of lush perennials, which dispense both food and beauty, necessities for hearts and souls. Change is palpable: shorter days, cooler temperatures, and optimism for the future.

Linking with Anna and the lovely Wednesday Vignette, it’s all about telling garden stories.

Frost Again

A few weeks ago I wrote about the whimsical ice art produced by FrostweedVerbesina virginica, typically revealed by the season’s first hard freeze; you can read about this winter’s ice art unveiling in my garden here.  I was coldly, but pleasantly surprised this past weekend to see more Frostweed ice sculptures after Central Texas–and my garden–plummeted to 20ºF (-6ºC).

Curled and swirled outwardly from the fractured and frayed epidermis of the stems, the ice is fragile, usually melting within a few hours as the Texas sun warms.

In the shady parts of my garden, the ribbons of frost remained a testament to the chilly weekend.

Even in sun-warmed spots, the ice art endured through Sunday, mid-day.

Some years, the Frostweed ice capades never materialize because temperatures don’t reach the freezing point. In other years when temperatures have fallen just to freezing, but no lower, and then later a deeper freeze occurs, the sap in the Frostweed acclimatizes so that the immediate and dramatic burst-freeze-ice curl doesn’t happen. In those years, it’s just plain old un-frosty Frostweed sticks amongst the downed, brown discarded leaves until it’s time to prune the sticks and rake the leaves.

This year, with temperatures swinging wildly from 80ºF to 20ºF and back again, the Frostweed proved its worth for the winter garden–at its base,

…and at its crown.

…and in a vase.

Frosty Frostweed

This past  week, winter entered the Central Texas picture with temperatures dipping to the mid 20s F/below 0 C, for several nights and mornings.  I realize that’s nothing to what the mid-west and elsewhere regularly endures, but it is a definitive so long to the blooming southwest garden!  and hello! to wilted and freeze-crisped plants.  I miss flowers in winter, but I welcome the cold(er) season exit of herbaceous perennials.  I like the bare-bones of a garden revealed, to better assess needed garden changes.

Fun to see after a hard freeze are the ice sculptured stems of FrostweedVerbesina virginica. 

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Elegant ice ribbons form when water in the stems expands rapidly during the first hard freeze of the season, exuding sap which freezes quickly and into delicate, fantastical shapes along the length of the stems.

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Wavy and curvy, the ice sheets are delicate and fragile.

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This one rocks a fungal look reminiscent of an earlier, warmer time.

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The ice ribbons usually appear near the base of the plant, but can develop along any stem–the key is plenty of sap within those epidural walls. My Frostweeds weren’t yet dormant, allowing for plenty of moisture to freeze.

I’d trimmed this Frostweed ahead of a soon-to-begin fence project.

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…and ice ribbons hug the 5 or 6 inches of remaining stems, looking like a scroll which needs unrolling.

Frostweed isn’t the only plant which produces these types of frozen sculptures, but it is a reliable ice artist in my garden.

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The ice is fragile, the sculpture ephemeral. Once the temperature rises above freezing, the natural sculpture is finished for another year.

Frostweed is an excellent plant for pollinators and birds, which is the primary reason I grow it,

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…but the ice sculptures are well-worth the winter show for the gardener.

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