Maybe it is because I am retired and not leaping out of bed at an early hour that I am for the first time aware of February as a turning point. The increasing hours of daylight are making us wake earlier and the dawn chorus has started. Everything is beginning to feel hopeful again and, of course, I can smell the start of a new growing season. How exciting!

This is in spite of the recent snow and arctic conditions that I prefer to believe will not last much longer.  Certainly garden plants look rather stunned by the end of the incredibly mild winter weather. The Iris Reticulata is looking somewhat surprised and so even are the snowdrops. The frost has made the vegetable garden floppy. The field beans have keeled over, the leeks look sad and the parsley is just a sodden mass, but I know that once the weather warms up a little they will all bounce back again. A  lovely pink hellebore is flowering in the back garden. I ought to remove the old leaves and give it some air but I never do and it invariably performs wonderfully, flowering until well into June.

I always feed the birds but I have given them extra rations during this cold spell. From the lounge windows I can watch chaffinches, robins, blackbirds, various tits but mainly great tits, house sparrows, wood pigeons and wrens. One or two goldfinches, so pretty, have stopped for a quick snack on the potentilla. I saw a small thrush this morning but haven’t seen any before and I noticed a small flock of fieldfares in the trees. They are rather handsome birds.

Anyway, the new spirit of hopefulness has prompted me to compose my first garden centre shopping list this year. It looks rather expensive!