If January is as two-faced a month as it pretends to be, then the garden has it beaten by a mile. Alluring, disdainful, smiling, grimacing, as bright as sunlight, as black as peat, full of promises, bereft of hope – the garden can be something to everyone as long as they realise that success and disappointment go hand in hand.
So why do we continue to garden? The answer doesn’t matter. What is important is that we continue to do so, often more in hope than expectation, ready to accept every setback in our path and even willing to try something new when all else fails.
Which is a very roundabout way of welcoming the new year and getting ready to be wowed by the early, early, very early spring-flowering bulbs. They may not be in your garden, but they’ll be in someone’s or in a local park or the grounds of a stately home.
So let’s enjoy them – and write down their names so we can rush out later this year and buy them to plant for spring 2015.
This month always throws up unusually early examples of daffodils in and among the banks of snowdrops, but the stars of January also include Cyclamen coum (often flowering from the end of the old year), Eranthis and the petite, scented Iris reticulata.
February fairly explodes with the flowers of Anemone blanda, Crocus, Scilla and Chionodoxa, the glory of the snow, whose small blooms are shaped like pale-blue stars.
By March, they are joined by the likes of Narcissus, Erythronium and hyacinth, and April, of course, is so full of flowers that a gardener really doesn’t know where to look.
Tulips start to take centre stage, while Convollaria, Trillium, grape hyacinth, fritillaries and Puschkinia, the rarely-grown relative of the bluebell, push their way through the soil.
It’s a hard life being a spring-flowering bulb, but the rewards are great – acclamation and appreciation from just about everyone, gardener or not, who has had to endure the dark and dismal days of winter.
So, enjoy the show to come; look forwards not back, and if you’ve never really got into gardening, give it a try. You may find it infuriating, but you’ll never be bored and you’ll be face to face with nature.