The snow has almost gone, at least for the time being. There are still stripes of old snow under the stone walls where the sun, still weak and only paying us fleeting visits, has failed to reach. Elsewhere in the fields there are patches where there is a dip in the ground and the snow was deeper; and where the snow in these dips has melted icy pools stand, the ice thick enough for the birds to practise their skating. Old snow is a sorry sight, dirty round the edges and pock-marked on the surface, where it has begun to melt and then changed its mind.
We think of it as bitterly cold, but actually it is quite kind to the plants in our garden because it covers them with a comparatively warm, white blanket which protects them from the hard frost.
And now that that blanket has gone the garden is a sad place. Soggy, slimy dead leaves drape themselves over everything. There is hardly a vestige of green.
But wait! Look closer and you will see that some things are stirring. Tiny sharp green blades with a little bulging white tip are pushing through in familiar places, where they appear every year. Yes the snowdrops - aptly named this year - are there and will soon be out if the sun gives them a bit of a boost. In the manger under the landing window the tete-a-tete daffodils are well up, their leaves standing proud and straight and advertising "we are hardy!" And the helebore are well out and telling us that they don't mind the weather at all. "We are not called the Christmas Rose for nothing," says Niger. And Argutifolius pushes her long blossom out from a circle of dark green, very dead-looking leaves as if to say that she will not be outdone by Niger.
On the trellis the winter jasmine has survived "bloody but unbowed" and is just beginning to pick up her head again.
Yes, Nature has her survivors, and should we get more snow then they will hide under its blanket and wait for the right day to say - Spring is on its way. If the weather improves then they will soon be joined by those other harbingers of Spring - the pulmonarias, the primroses and the Lenten roses. I can hardly wait.