Spring creeps closer as we head down South, and the grey and brown woodlands cracked only by drifts of snowdrops and aconite steadily become more flushed and florabundant, daffodils creeping in stem by stem. As the miles drop away, rolling coastal winds smash rain over the car and inexorably the temperature creeps up; the Midlands gives way to the South West, wet and warm. We are headed for Cornwall and the Eden project, but east of Eden it is spring already, if spring ever went away. We are in Plymouth, and the front gardens are in flower.
Nobody has fleece on their palm trees round here; their cheerful spiky top-knots are open to the sun and showers. Below them yellow daffs star the gardens; not yet in their multitudes, but as the first few trumpets of spring. Here and there the soft blue flames of crocuses hover over the wet soil, and of course there are snowdrops, snowflakes, and the green strappy leaves of all the other bulbs coming soon.
But the real action is up in the bushes, where the last of last year's roses (seeing and seizing the opportunity to continue all the way through a mild winter) are colliding with the glossy flowers of camellias, creating a sumptuous mass of storybook bushes, dark glossy leaves dripping with a ridiculous abundance of pink-red-rose-white flowers, leaning over fences and sprawling over sun-warmed walls, and flumping drunkenly around gates and doorways.
We reach our destination, a precipitously steep terrace where the warm soil is already green with the rude bright growth of spring, and my nieces show their first daffodil of 2015.