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This morning I noticed the horse chestnut leaves had started to make an appearance – tender little fingers appearing from sticky buds, popping out to shake hands with the sun. They’ve joined the blossom and blackthorn in showing their colours and now nature is roaring in like Canute’s tide. Within a week or so everything will be the almost fluorescent green of high spring, a colour that shouts exuberance, growth and renewal. Only a few fashionably late trees like beech and walnut will stay skeletal into May – a reminder of how quickly and completely nature wakes from winter.

The quote in the title is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98. He was born less than 20 miles from where I sit, and I’m sure he would agree (I say, merrily co-opting a man who has been dead for 450 years) that there is nothing more beautiful than spring in England. It’s a time of year when everything in nature seems to wear a smile, it lifts every heart. The lambs, well past the knock-kneed cuteness of babyhood, are now fat and bumptious, playing, fighting, causing trouble. The gardens at Purston are stirring – the tulips and daffs are nearly over, and the spear-like buds of the irises are starting to show colour. The gardens build to a crescendo in June, when Annabel’s planting shows off the full power of England’s natural beauty in summer. But I’m in no rush – I relish every change along the way.