It is getting warm enough to walk in the evenings now; warm enough to decide, of an evening, that you'll take the scenic route to pick up the milk. So out I go, past the privet (sprigging up for the year and due its first trim) gardens gussied up with pansies and gerbera fresh from the garden centre, then across the road to my first cherry. April is cherry, wildly waving its great curds and clumps of blossom, pink and white against the bright blue sky. Above the cherry and smart modern maples, their new leaves flushed red with spring toxins, the old school municipal trees are unfolding their leaves, bright green flags which appear with astonishing speed; lime, plane and poplar back for another year.
The wild places along the culvert are showing hawthorn blossom now, while fat ducks dibble in the drains. The ivy is studded with tiny new leaves, bright as jade against last year's growth. A scatter of birds are feeding on the ground around the fresh budburst of the new native hedge planted across the playing field; jackdaws, crows, magpies, woodpigeon - a collared dove. In the hedges, chirps and flutters in the fresh green leaves, and the first clouds of midges trying to get their business done before the return of the bats, the swallows, the martins and the swifts.
A sudden blast of butterscotch and cream scent indicates another Cherry - Cherry Laurel has flowered wildly this year and is smothered in racemes of tiny white flowers, fast going brown, looming over the the beech hedges which are finally pushing off their old brown leaves with the bright green darts of this year's growth. Fresh beech leaves, soft and bright as silk, quickly follow, in greens and coppers. Sly twitches of clematis, alpine and montana, sneak over fences to play in the parks, while Spanish Bluebells, Lily-of-the-valley and Violets creep out under the hedges. Primrose, Cowslip and Snakeshead Fritillary sneak in to add a wild touch in the border (or vice versa, as native planting is popular and many garden plants have gone feral). And everywhere the dandelions, suns on the soil, exploding into happy life in the April sun.
Out in the park, the front garden Magnolias and Forsythias and Quinces are starting to fade. But as their petals drop, new colour springs up beneath; Muscari and Iris and my favourite flower, Tulips, plastic bright and in poppy colours, right now at their blazing best. The best tulip planters add new shapes and colours, year on year, until their tulip beds are like fashion week in the garden, a crazy crowd of overdressed partygoers nodding wildly in the spring breeze. Tulips are a matter of preference. One house has an even scatter of classic red and yellows, another has a scatter of exotic parrots in gothish shades, another has a single, perfect tulip planted prominently near the door. It won't be the last. My favourite house has narrow beds so densely planted the tulips hold each other up - the fruit of many year's work, layering bulbs into the rick dark soil.
Back at home, milk secured, my own tulips are waiting for me along with this year's new arrivals (a crazy petunia, a fancy Primula, and the usual run of couldn't-resist-them violas. The water lilies are sending up leaves, and the first shoots are coming from the vine. Spring has stopped coming. It is here.