where the (frog)boys are for winter

frogboy-tissue-boxA NUMBER OF YOU HAVE WRITTEN in expressing concerns for the welfare of my various and sundry frogboys now that cold temperatures are upon us. No worry, they are tucked safe inside my new custom copper-trimmed tissue dispenser (above). OK, so that’s a big fat lie, but can you believe how gorgeous it is? And do you really want to know where the (frog)boys are? Read on.

The less scientific part first: When I picked up my mail Friday, there was a box from Shandell’s, a store not far from me whose owner, Susan Schneider, makes astonishing lampshades out of vintage wallpaper and handmade papers and fabrics…or at least that’s her primary business. I was expecting a lampshade I’d ordered not long ago, but unless she’d dehydrated it, no way my big shade was in that little Priority Mail box.


Susan’s business motto is: “Things that make you smile,” and she could not be more correct.  Imagine how big my smile was when out of the mystery box came her surprise, no-special-occasion gift: my own custom tissue-box cover, made from decoupaged, downloaded images of my dollface frogboys from A Way to Garden, where Susan is a regular visitor. You can have a memory box of your own images, too (or maybe of the frogboys someday if Susan and I can just locate their slippery talent agent, who apparently is submerged in the back pools with the boys or otherwise unavailable at present to negotiate usage rights).

Yes, that’s where the boys spend the winter–underwater–unless there’s a prolonged thaw or they need a very infrequent gulp of air and come to the surface (looking, frankly, stoned out of their minds). Frogs have no way to keep warm otherwise, so they go into a state of hibernation below the frost line, such as at the bottom of a body of water, either well dug into the muck or (in my two predominant species, green and bull) preferring to sleep just nestled lightly in it. They turn a dark, lifeless brown to match the litter and muck down there, lie flat with their legs outstretched as if dead, and proceed to breathe very, very slowly–through their skin. It’s as if they are barely alive.

The key (as with overwintering fish) is that the water must not freeze completely, which would suffocate the hibernating pond life. I float a submersible de-icer in each pool all winter to keep a hole open in the ice and provide for this critical gas exchange. What wattage you’ll need depends on the surface measurement and water volume of your pond, and also on what Zone you’re in.

Peepers and toads have their own systems, burrowing to safety in the ground, in cracks and crevices or deep leaf litter and other debris, but if I’m looking for my main men I know where they’ll be: in the little pools out back, sleeping off one hell of a summer together.

  1. margaret says:

    Welcome to two new commenters, Tina and Inadvertentfarmer. I am glad that Susan Schneider’s act of creativity and generosity made you smile, too. Come again soon.

  2. Carol, May Dreams Gardens says:

    That is quite the tissue holder, very pretty and very “you”. I hope you don’t need too many tissues this winter (as in no colds or flu!)

  3. Sasha says:

    Too cool! Thank you for the info about the frogs…I have always lived in southern California where we have the occasional frost, but nothing serious, so our frogs just hang out.

  4. Marty says:

    Does your kitty ever take an interest in the Frog Boys, or is there enough other “livestock” at your place that kitty doesn’t care about the Frog Boys?

  5. Our frogs are still basking in the sunshine. It was in the 70s here for the last few days. The end of the stream where the big frogs live is in a protected micro-climate due to our passive solar house design. This morning, the outside temp was 57 degrees, but our front porch was 80 degrees….just a few feet away were the frogs!


  6. margaret says:

    Welcome, Marty. Jack the Demon Cat used to have an occasional look at them, but in recent years his attentions are focused on things with fur, thankfully.

  7. John at JWLW says:

    Last year we had to move about 100 frogs to a to local pond for the winter. This year we only had about 10 and where able to move them them to a area near us. Last year our area was dry, this year we had lots of rain and wet area stayed. Our small garden pond is a plastic tub and will freeze out if we dont empty it, has no place for the frogs to winter. We are looking towards next year to see how many move in during the summer.


  8. Susan says:

    The frog boys look regal in the pictures. Seeing the box I gave you makes me smile. Enjoy, nothing beats starting day than reading your blog.

  9. Layanee says:

    Hmmmm, brings to mind the question, “Are there any frog girls and how can one tell”? They are quite photogenic aren’t they.

  10. margaret says:

    @Layanee: Yes, there are frog girls, but I prefer to think of myself living surrounded by princes-in-the-making. You can tell the boys form the girls only to a point, and often by behavior in the mating season. The boys tend to talk more, particularly during the day in some species common here, and also display aggressive behavior: grabbing other frogs and climbing onto their backs to mate. If the one underneath emits a noise (a release call) then you know it’s a male, too. That only happens in some species, like the common toad in my area. Fascinating, really.

  11. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says:

    Oh, those are the best kind of gifts: totally unexpected and totally suited to the recipient. Susan has obviously been paying attention.

  12. Curtis says:

    How great is that. Not seeing many frogs as we did when it was late spring. If I had a pond I would keep one of those deicers on hand.

  13. margaret says:

    Welcome, Curtis. Yes, they are getting quiet and hiding themselves away. Nice of you to speak up and not hide, however; thanks for your comment!

  14. Mary C says:

    All of my frogs are tucked away for the winter in the pond in my Japanese garden (actually it’s more of a “water feature” than a pond, but they don’t know the difference. There is one guy, though, who is holding out in the bowl of the toilet in the pool house. It’s the first thing the grandkids check out when they arrive…”is the frog still there?” Yes, and that toilet is off limits til next spring!

  15. Maree says:

    Hi Margaret, lovely to read about your Frog Boys – I too have frog boys (and girls!) and their wonderful cocophany of music puts me to sleep every night, together with the gentle splashing of the waterfall… Our rainy season (in South Africa) has just started and frogs magically appeared at my pond to vie for the best rocks and vegetation, sending forth their songs in unison (I always try and count how many are singing at the same time, it’s quite an exercise keeping track of each sound in your mind and working out that there are 5 of them going at it!) Then, shortly afterwards,(and by afterwards I presume it is when they’ve finished mating and trying to find hiding places) the whole house is flooded with frogs, every nook and cranny seems to house a frog. And when they’re gently removed to be placed back at the pond, it is with great grunts of indignation and huffing and puffing taking place. Great blog, also enjoy the gardening news!

  16. margaret says:

    Welcome, Maree, from so far away. Your tale of frogs everywhere is beautiful; I love it. Mine don’t ever come inside, so now I am jealous, hearing of your visitors. Come again soon, to see the boys or the garden or me.

  17. margaret says:

    Welcome, Mars. The last few days it has been so warm they are up and atom again, sitting at poolside and swimming around. I am not sure how to get pics of them once they go into their watery slumber, but I will look for opportunities. Do visit again soon.

  18. sue comstock says:

    Hi, i just caught the show on frog boys and it’s the cutest thing i seen. ilovegardening, and FROGS. I’m going too buy the book. I love whnt i read online. My one cat loves frogs and I am always saving them.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Sue. Tell that frog-eating cat to forget it! Glad to have you here at the start of a new year, and hope to hear from you soon again.

  19. Janice says:

    Oh, the frogs. We had a “volunteer” frog spend last summer with us in the koi pond (we figured he hitched a ride on one of the plants we had purchased.) He grew and grew and was quite at home. We weren’t sure what would happen in the winter – we had already witnessed the miracle of fish overwintering, so we thought that maybe the frog could last the winter, too. We lost track of him last November or so – and now – I am sad to say, my husband dredged up a lifeless frog body from the bottom of the pond just the other day. We used a heater, but since the pond is just a rubber membrane, we figured he didn’t have a place to settle into. Oh well. We are hoping for another visitor this year.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Janice. I leave a substantial amount of muck in the bottom of my pools and they seem to appreciate it, but who knows whether there is any guaranteed method of success. I hope to see you soon again here, and wish for you the companionship of another frog in the season to come.

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