Hoarfrost Or Frozen Dew


Under clear frosty nights in winter soft ice crystals might form on vegetation or any object that has been chilled below freezing point by radiation cooling. This deposit of ice crystals is known as hoar frost and may sometimes be so thick that it might look like snow. The interlocking ice crystals become attached to branches of trees, leafs, hedgerows and grass blades and are one of the most prominent features of a typical ‘winter wonderland’ day. However, the fine ‘feathers’, ‘needles’ and ‘spines’ might also be found on any other object that is exposed to supersaturated air below freezing temperature.

Quoted from WeatherOnline. In simpler terms, hoarfrost is frozen dew.

november-22-2008-084This is the uncropped shot of the first photo. It is the wall that runs along the back of the main house, with golden creeping jenny resting on the concrete block.
november-22-2008-080Small grape hyacinths, Muscari armeniacum, are planted and self planted all over the garden. Those along the wall must hold more moisture along their leaves for these ice crystals to form on the edges. They are like ice spears. These blades are not damaged by the continuous freeze and thaw cycles endured here until the last frost date of mid April.november-22-2008-085More densely packed is the frost on this annual dianthus. These are likely to survive several winters here even though the labels read to the contrary.november-25-2008-029Out front at the street, a cold spot and the lowest elevation finds a wild white aster flowerhead and Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ encased.november-22-2008-030Spent heads of Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ front Artemesia versicolor ‘Seafoam’ in the yellow/white bed. A single strand of golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ rests lightly of the frosted stems at lower right.november-22-2008-081Decorated with star frost are these perennial peppers, Capsicum-unknown. Click here to read the post about these winter fruiters.november-25-2008-014Standing at the top of the stair way to the knot garden and looking to the east, the eye rests upon the frozen muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris upheld by the wintergreen boxwood hedge.november-25-2008-081Many efforts have been made to get a representative photo of the striking color on the coral bark maple, Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’. This day the camera found a couple of hanging on leaves to focus upon while gauzing the coral stems in the background.november-25-2008-089Another effort at capturing that hot pink trunk was taken looking through the remnants of the Joe Pye weed. The Canon refuses to recognize the maple once again.november-25-2008-040As the sun hits the garden, the frost disappears, erasing the geometrical magic of the ice crystals. But the magic remains undaunted, for discovered among the green Chamaecyparis is an embedded praying mantis egg case! Oh joy of joys, it looks like a fresh one too, ensuring a replenishment of that population next spring when the little wee ones emerge in great numbers to guard and defend the Fairegarden. Β Ah, how pleasant it is to think of spring.

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41 Responses to Hoarfrost Or Frozen Dew

  1. You’ve captured some magical images in the frost. I can’t believe how heavy it is in some parts of your garden. It makes for beautiful, moody pictures. I love the shot of color that maple injects into the garden.

    Hi MMD, thanks. I can’t believe it either. This is not the norm for us at all, and yet today we had snow and ice storms in a high wind. It didn’t stick but the schools were closed or on delay. This used to be rare, now it is eveyday, darn it! The coral bark maple is such a bright spot, the cold is making it even more colorful, one good thing about it.

  2. Racquel says:

    How marvelous, Jack Frost has once again visited your garden and decorated it with beautiful crystals of ice!

    Hi Racquel, thanks. Ole Jack just keeps on comin’ and comin’. We are ready for him to go back north where he belongs! πŸ™‚

  3. tina says:

    It is looking pretty cold in your neck of the woods Frances. Do stay warm and out of the hoar frost. What an awful name for such a pretty phenomenon.

    Hi Tina, it is cold. Glad I had made soup yesterday, to warm our insides. That is an odd name, it reminds me of a medieval forest that is enchanted by the ice fairies.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Those hoar frost pictures are outstanding Frances. You almost made me go get my manuel to try to figure out how to get that one. πŸ™‚ You will have to put your camera on manuel to get that pesky maple.

    We rarely have the conditions for hoar frost. It is so exciting to wake up and see it.

    Aren’t you the lucky one finding that mantis egg sack.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I was afraid it would take the manual settings to get the coral bark trunk, so far that is beyond me, but it can be a goal for the future. We have been having this sort of frost every day, it is losing its magic. Without the eye of the camera I would not have seen the egg case, I should walk around the garden with it all the time, like I don’t do that already! πŸ™‚

  5. I didn’t look that close at my frost, though in the forest we have much less of it. Frost seems to prefer more open areas.

    Hi Christopher, it is easy to look closely at things along the wall in back, it is right at my eye level with the camera not having to bend down, sometimes being shorter has its advantages! Of course I didn’t see how the formations are so geometrical until the shots are loaded. As I was taking the photos it was just frost on the leaves. Sometimes we just get lucky.

  6. greenwalks says:

    I’ve read about hoar frost in many English novels but we don’t really get it here in Seattle, at least I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. So so lovely, all of these photos. Can’t get over the resilience of plants, how they can endure these extremes of temperatures and come back strong every year.

    Hi Karen, thanks. It does sound English, doesn’t it? We are having way more of it than I can ever remember. Something about the air being supersaturated, dripping after a rain and then flash frozen as the temps dive at night. The plants here endure all kind of horrible things like drought, heavy clay soil, hot summers and then the frost thaw cycle, and thrive. It always surprises me.

  7. I am completely excited to see those shots. We rarely, [ more years than I can remember get those kind of conditions ]. I even called my Husband over to see them. He loved them also.

    Hi jen, thanks so much, and hubby too! We have been having day after day of these conditions for some reason. I am ready for some warmer temps so I can work in the garden, I am turning into a slug in the lazyboy!

  8. Brenda Kula says:

    Ah, yes, the joys of spring… It is getting cold here. One day I’m in shorts, and the next I’m freezing. That’s Texas for you. I truly enjoyed these photos, Frances. For the beauty is there amidst the ice and frost. Subtle, yet lovely because it is part of the cycle of nature. You teach me something every time I visit. Now I know what hoar frost is!

    Hi Brenda, so sorry you had to put your shorts away. Thanks for the kind words, the term hoar frost has an ancient ring to it to my ears and the landscape is beautiful, but I NEED to go outside and piddle around for my mental and physical health.:-)

  9. Beautiful shots Frances, the coral bark maple is a glorious colour.

    Hi Karen, thanks. The maple really jumps out at you in the garden amidst all the browns and tans. It is just a little guy, new last spring, so it will be more of a feature as it grows, hopefully.

  10. shirl says:

    Just wonderful images, Frances πŸ˜€

    I especially loved the third one! You certainly have the knack of how to use your camera to capture frost tjhat is for sure!

    We had a hard frost over the weekend too. I thought of you with your fingerless gloves (when I stopped feeling mine) when I was out with my camera too πŸ˜‰

    Hi Shirl, thanks, you photos were fantastic too! The plantings along the wall are easy to shoot, I don’t have to bend down, so much easier on the back. You do need to look for those gloves, however, your fingers might freeze fast to the camera! πŸ™‚

  11. Gail says:

    Frances, You have once again captured the frozen dew beautifully. It is magical in your garden. We didn’t get any of the wether that was threatened…it’s been gray and rainy on and off and for a few minutes the sun came out. Winter is on the way. Keep warm and enjoy working in the garden soon! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. I would love to be out in the garden. The weatherman just said it was very cold in Nashville, you might have some frost this morning, but I do believe your tree covering inhibits that formation. There are still closed schools in the mountain areas here. I am going out no matter what today!

  12. Amy says:

    Just gorgeous! I get so excited now when there is a good frost in the garden – such a great opportunity for picture taking πŸ™‚

    Hi Amy, thanks. I have changed your link and am excited for the new stage of blogdom for you! Way to go! I am losing interest in the frost after all these days of it, and am now ready for some warmer weather, do you hear that weathergods?

  13. Jean says:

    Wow, just beautiful Frances. Now I’m REALLY feeling guilty about not getting outside, just cause it’s cold and windy. We’re supposed to have a good freeze here tonight. Maybe I’ll make it outside tomorrow morning and find something as beautiful as you have. Or maybe I’ll sleep in. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Jean, thanks. The beauty is out there, we have to be early birds to get it, and I am the earliest of those. Just as the sun rises is the best time to capture it. Or sleep in, that does sound appealing too. πŸ™‚ Your brother’s property is breathtaking, BTW.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Whoa, there is even more frost in the garden?? TN is technically a southern state isn’t it?? Is this highly unusual? We haven’t had much cold weather (not complaining) in Colorado yet but you seem to be getting plenty. I’d be ready for it to recede also. Meanwhile, you are mastering the winter landscape. The first three photos all had me gaping. Nice job Frances and you have my respect for braving the cold to get these spectacular photos for us.

    Hi Kathleen, sadly yes. We are considered middle south by the Southern Living garden book, zone 7. This much cold this early is very unusual and I am frankly getting tired of it. I will have to bundle up again today, below freezing again this morning but the sun is supposed to show its face later, hooray!

  15. Frances, you really do need to work on your camera skills. I better take it off your hands and take care of it awhile. I’ll give it back sometime in the future;)

    I had no idea that frost had a name. I found the information a good and educated read while being perfectly pleasing to the eyes–kinda like looking at ice-cream! And how is The Hop doing now that school is back in session. Booming I suppose.

    I never made it up there due to a wonderful kidney stone. I needed your camera for a close up shot of such a tiny little thing that caused a gigantic pain. So I still need to visit The Hop.

    Hi Anna, thanks for that. I do need to learn more about the camera, especially to get those bird shots and the moon with the special settings. Thanks for asking about the Hop. Times are a little slow during the cold winter months there. But they are offering coffee drinks and hot chocolate with the steamed milk from the espresso machine that is helping. The slow down of the economy hurts the tourist trade that is crucial to Ashevlle. They have lots of ideas about bringing customers in come spring with the start of the minor league baseball season for their team, The Tourists, such a funny name! Last year they did the 100 foot long banana split on the field, the local tv news camera crew was there and it was a big hit. They have a couple more events like that planned and tv time always helps bring people in. Do stop by for a free cone if you mention Fairegarden! And so sorry about that kidney stone, ouch.

  16. Phillip says:

    I’ve never heard that term before. I love your photos, especially the banner photo. It looks like a winter wonderland.

  17. Hi Frances WOW, how beautiful! It is amazing with the frost. When the winter comes with frost and snow we say that Kung Bore(King Bore) comes with cold weather and give the landscape the wintery look. Do you have something similar saying in US? /Tyra

    Hi Tyra, thanks so much. King Bore, that sounds like a cool character, (sorry, couldn’t resist). We have a fellow named Jack Frost who is derived from your King, also called Old Man Winter here, who is responsible for the icy crystals. It was Nordic in origin, so says wikipedia, so thanks for that lore! πŸ™‚

  18. Lythrum says:

    That first picture is so beautiful, really good shot there. πŸ™‚

    Hi Lythrum, thanks so much. That one was a pleasant surprise when it got loaded onto the computer.

  19. Randy says:

    Brrrrrrrrrrrr! That looks cold! But, Oh my gosh what incredible photos!

    Hi Randy, thanks so much. It was cold, but I am bundled up to the top of my head. Silly looking, but staying warm. πŸ™‚

  20. Frances,

    I’ve read about your photos, but can’t see them due to our network problems. 😦 I’m sure everything is just lovely.

    I couldn’t leave Meems a comment today–the network “couldn’t find a connection” whenever I tried.

    Hopefully, our new BellSouth modem will be here on Thursday. These technical problems are so frustrating and they came all at once.


    Oh Cameron, I am so sorry about your computer problems. That is very frustrating to you, I’m sure. We do take this marvel that is the internet for granted, until we have trouble with it. It is scary sometimes how dependent I am on it. Hope everything gets sorted out on Thursday. Your post about your garden and the deer paths was exceptionally brilliant!

  21. Marnie says:

    Wow, great photos. Your camera does a really good job with macros.

    Hi Marnie, thanks so much. The camera likes the frost.

  22. Robin says:

    Having a hoarfrost is my absolute favorite thing about winter. It is the most incredible experience! I still remember the very first time I saw it after our move here from Alabama, I was awestruck!

    Your pictures are amazing, especially the macro shot of it.

    I hope we have another one this year!

    Hi Robin, thanks. I am sure you would be able to take some magnificent shots of the hoarfrost. Hope you get some. It is pretty amazing.

  23. Siria says:

    Hi Frances! You have portrayed your beautiful garden in a whole new light! Your photographs are stunning. I feel like I am looking through a microscope in that first photograph. Your muhly continues to look gorgeous even in its frozen state.

    Hi Siria, thanks for visiting. I’m glad that the frost was apparent in the uncropped photo, I saw those little windmills and was thrilled. The muhly is still standing tall and looking good, it normally has been cut down by now. Happy that you liked the photos.

  24. gittan says:

    WOW! It looks amazing, almost magic. The maple with coral bark, I’ve never even heard of. But the colour looks great. I’m looking foreward to see how it looks in the summer with leaves. One thing that I didn’t understand was the egg case, what kind of animal does it belong to?
    I’m sorry about the missing translation – i was in a hurry and didn’t have time to translate =/ I will make sure that it won’t happen again / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks for the translation, but don’t worry about it, I know how busy our lives can be. πŸ™‚ I enjoyed seeing your decorations and the sign of spring too! The coral bark maple is still a very young tree, but the bark is not as bright during summer. In the fall it had the most gorgeous yellow leaves as the bark started to turn more red. The egg case is for a large insect called a praying mantis. It eats other bugs and is very unique looking, highly desirable in the garden.


  25. Rose says:

    Oh, I am so envious of that praying mantis egg case! I’m sure I must have a few around my garden with all the mantises I had this summer, but I have yet to actually see an egg case.

    Thank you for the explanation of hoarfrost; I always wondered what it actually was. Your photos are beautiful–the pink Muhly grass is still spectacular, even covered in frost!

    Hi Rose, you must have some. I had not seen any of the insects this year, so was pleasantly surprised to see the egg case. I did have to look it up, not sure myself, but the explanation was simple really, frozen dew, but the word hoarfrost sounds much more mystical. The muhly continues to stand tall and not get messy, who knew? πŸ™‚

  26. As I scrolled down through your photos, my reaction to the Acer palmatam and Joe Pye weed photos was “Stained Glass Windows.” The ice crystals are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    Hi Shady, thanks so much. Those frosty mornings just as the sun rises are a magical time. So glad you liked them.

  27. easygardener says:

    Fascinating the way the frost crystals grow outwards from the edges of the leaves. Magical effect!

    Hi Easy, thanks. The camera does help me see things that would normally be missed. I have never noticed the way the frost grows out before either.

  28. Anne says:

    Hi Frances, what beautiful photos! I love how the muhly grass looks gorgeous under all circumstances.

    Hi Anne, thanks so much. The muhly is showing itself to be more than it ever was realized here, for it had usually been cut down by now. I thought it was too messy! HA So far it is standing tall and holding together.

  29. Ohhhh Francis those pics are too wonderful! I just adore the first one. Frost is almost magical in quality! Thanks so much for sharing, Kim

    Hi Kim, thanks so much. I like that one too. The design reminds me of a windmill. Full of magic, for sure.

  30. Dave says:

    Really cool pictures, forgive the pun! The color of the maple is stunning against the white frosting.

    Hi Dave, cool is right, thanks! I am loving that maple, do you have one of those? If not, you need one, talk about winter interest! I got that one at Walmart for $25, a good deal for they are usually expensive.

  31. Monica says:

    I love, love, love your photos (did you use that macro feature?!) and your no-fuss definition of hoar frost. You know, oftentimes one hears or reads words, thinking they know what they mean, and realizing later, “What? What exactly is that?” For example, I’m always confused by the saying “the first hard frost.” Isn’t frost always hard? Or is this a way to differentiate hoar frost for frost frost? (Thanks for indulging my musing!)

    Hi Monica, thanks, so nice to see you here. I did use the macro on the close up photos, I understand now the little noises that the Canon makes when it has a good picture lined up, it speaks to me! LOL. Since writing for the blog, I like to look up terms and meanings so I have it right, and have learned so much, including spellings! Hard frost? I agree with you, all frost is hard, maybe they mean a frost that lasts longer, or goes down deeper into the ground? Just a guess, but *hard* is a relative term. HA

  32. gittan says:

    Thanks for letting me know! Now I have looked on google about the praying mantis, an interesting insect i must say / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks for coming back to learn more!


  33. Weeping Sore says:

    A real fairegarden. Your pictures capture the ephemeral magic of frost.

    Hi WS, thanks so much for those kind words. The frost gives a whole new look to the pre winter garden now, melting quickly on a sunny day.

  34. joey says:

    Dear Frances, you have captured amazing ice crystal shots in this most informative post. Pray tell, is Jack Frost playing hide-and-seek with your fairies!

    Hi Joey, thanks for stopping by. I do feel the fairies have been having some fun with their geometry lessons with the crystals, making them into wondrous shapes to pass the time until spring comes again.

  35. Not fair. I see a beautiful plant with winter interest (the pepper) and it remains a mystery. And how I do need some winter interest around here.

    Hi Jill, the pepper is a mystery! I have searched high and low for any information on it, never seen it offered it catalogs either. It was a passalong from my neighbors down the street, Mae and Mickey, and she just called it the perennial pepper. I didn’t believe her, but it is true, no matter how cold it gets, it will return from the roots, bigger and better. The peppers are very late to form and last through the winter. Something does eat them, I think it is the birds.

  36. ESP says:

    The frost images are amazing!
    It looks like a crazy chemistry experiment, tiny little crystalline structures. I am interested in what sort of camera you are using?
    Fantastic work.

    Hi ESP, thanks so much. My camera is a Canon power shot A 720. I have just recently read the owner’s manual and discovered some settings that help the macro be all it can be! I did a couple of posts about that if you are interested in my camera experiment.



  37. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful photos, Frances. We haven’t had a regular frost yet, although tonight is a real possibility. The air is pretty dry so guess we won’t see anything like this and with all the subtropical plants in my garden, I’d really rather see it on your blog than in person.

    My camera’s a not-too-fancy point and shoot, Frances, so I don’t know if this will work with a camera like yours or how far away you are from the coral bark maple. Sometimes when a stem won’t focus I’ve done that trick where you hold a piece of white cardboard behind the plant with one hand, hold the button partway down until it’s focused, then whisk the cardboard away before pressing the button all the way down.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hi Annie, thanks, so nice to see you here. I wish we were not seeing frost every night here, but we are. It is so unusual for us too. I do think your camera is better than mine, it is just a point and shoot too, but thanks for that tip. I knew it was a way to photograph white flowers, but the reds are difficult too, so maybe that will work. I will give it a try when it stops raining, some day. We do still need the rain, but I am beginning to become one with the lazyboy again and need to get out and do some digging! Frost and rain. Bring on the sun.

  38. Steve says:

    Stunning photo’s Frances. Just wonderful stuff!

    Hi Steve, thanks. So glad you enjoyed our frost. I, frankly, am sick of it!

  39. marmee says:

    seeing that first image reminds me of a book i bought last year on snowflakes. i love seeing that closeup

    Hi Marmee thanks. I was amazed at the design in the ice crystals that formed that night. Wonders of nature.

  40. Kim says:

    Wonderful photos, Frances! Your blog always makes me smile (and wish I’d been out early with a camera, too).

    Hi Kim, thanks so much for that. It is heartwarming to hear that a smile is on your face.

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