On December 31st we woke to a hard frost that added some sparkle to the few remaining plants. Brightest of them all were the Skimmia japonica. These are not real showstopper plants but in the darkest days of winter, when they have virtually no competition, they come into their own.
Frosty highlights on the leaves made the Christmas-coloured berries on the female plants look even cheerier than usual.
The males surprise us with winter flowers; on Skimmia 'Rubella' they are a soft rose, which looked lovely with a coating of white sifted across them.
Few other green leaves are braving the cold, but Heuchera 'Pear Crisp', new to me this year, is proving surprisingly hardy even though it has fallen open into a coronet of lime-green. Dead leaves underneath provide a warm contrasting colour.
My lanky rosemary bush is even trying to bloom.
And even though it's now lost its vivid autumn hues and quite a few leaves as well, Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf' just refuses to quit.
I've left more herbaceous perennials standing this year to keep a bit more structure in the garden for a bit longer. The frost has given these, too, a silvery presence more dramatic than they manage otherwise. I didn't expect calico aster (Symphyotrichum 'Lady in Black') to look so good and tone so well with the urn behind it, not to mention how well it complements the black mondo grass and sage in the background.