There are snowdrops, aconites and even crocuses beginning to colonise the park and the little graveyard at the end of my road. Another sure a sign that spring is imminent is the launch of the 2010 Yellow Book.
It's one of a string of events at this time of year aimed at whetting the appetites of garden writers and editors. The bible of the venerable National Garden Scheme seems to go from strength to strength. Yellow Book gardens sum up a lot of what I love about gardening in the UK. You get to visit beautiful, otherwise inaccessible gardens, sample (usually delicious) home made cakes and tea, as well as almost definitely buying a few homegrown plants. And all the money raised by this very pleasurable summer activity goes to charity.
You might find those who argue that this terribly English approach to gardening is not very groundbreaking, that it simply perptuates horticultural stereotypes and tradition. But the NGS's purpose is not necessarily to push our garden boundaries; it's about celebrating a national passion and supporting worthy causes. Besides, it's hard to argue with a gorgeous plot and a fine slice of of Victoria sponge on a sunny afternoon.
This year, there seem to be even more city gardens and allotments on offer, and I've already earmarked at least 10 visits. My new tactic is to book these dates into my diary. I am not leaving my yellow book visits to chance this year. All too often I pass a famiiliar 'Garden Open' sign on my way to somewhere else and vow to return. Or on one of those early spring days, I remind myself not to miss this year's opening on Chiswick Mall, for example; and then suddenly I'm off on some other summer outing that weekend, and the opportunity has gone for another year.
So I'm going to sit down with my Yellow book and my diary and I will set reminders of those Garden Open dates and turn down all those other invites in favour of a tea and cake in a fantastic garden.