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South Regional Reports

Southern Gardens After the First Frost

Appreciating the aesthetics of decay as the seasons change

Sometimes when stems are still full of moisture they can burst during sudden freezes, providing a stunning effect. Photo: Andy Pulte

“Aesthetics of decay” might sound like an exhibit at a modern art museum. But seasoned gardeners know there is something special about how a garden returns to itself in the winter. In the South, this merely means that gardens rest for a moment to catch their breath before boomeranging back to life in the spring. As December dawns in the garden, we reach the opening act of a show we need to be observant and patient to appreciate. Don’t worry—spring ephemerals will soon be under foot. For now, as the weather cools, take a minute to appreciate plants in their winter form.

giant elephant’s ear
Frost shines in sunlight on the leaves of this giant elephant’s ear (Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant Strain,’ Zones 8–10). Photo: Jason Reeves

The first frost transforms the garden

As the moisture in the atmosphere contacts a surface with a temperature below 32°F, frost is formed. In…

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