Hot ice maidens; 34 LIFESTYLE Gardening with Adrienne Wild Winter's prettiest wonders.
JACK Frost's fingers have magic powers. With one touch they can transform mundane evergreen plants into stunning ice sculptures.
When the frost melts, the show goes on, as leaves change colour ready to stoke up the garden's dying embers.
Bergenia are the star performers, with their elephant ear foliage turning from green to ruby red.
The varieties Bressingham Ruby (pictured) and Ballaway are reliable. For a more spectacular show, check out Sunningdale, which in winter flaunts the pink underside to its rich claret foliage. They are a useful ground cover for dry sites under trees.
And Wintermarchen is handy for edging borders. Its narrow upright leaves become twisted after being hit by cold weather, which exposes their beetroot-coloured backs.
These bergenias are some of the season's most valuable plants. Their bold, richly coloured architectural foliage makes a great foil for snowdrops. Their own spring flowers can be white and every shade of pink.
Heart Epimedium, a spring-flowering evergreen perennial, also has foliage affected by the cold. Frohnleiten is one to watch as its distinctive heart-shaped leaves become flushed with bronze-red in winter.
In spring, tiny bright yellow blooms are held above the leaves on delicate wiry stems. Use it to carpet bare soil beneath deciduous trees and shrubs.
Then there's Oregon grape or Mahonia aquifolium Atropurpureum, an evergreen shrub with bright green leaves that turn red-purple in winter.
It produces dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, too. Mahonia japonica (inset) not only delivers purple-tinted leaves but scented flowers in winter. At just 90cm tall, this shrub is ideal for small gardens.
Another must-have shrub for where space is at a premium is the versatile Euonymus fortunei. This non-clinging evergreen climber can be used as ground cover and also in containers.
Euonymus Emerald 'n' Gold turns a rich old gold in winter, with scarlet blotches and edges. Partner it with Leucothoe Rainbow, with its vibrant pink and cream leaves.