ARE you starting to get that springtime feeling? Driving into work now reveals yet another burst of blossom each morning while passing front gardens and hedgerows.
For me this is the most exciting time of year as the gardens awake.
Gardeners should be cautious to heed the possibility of another dose of Arctic weather but there's no reason not to celebrate the lengthening days by adding some early colour to kick the year off on a bright and cheerful note.
Spring flowering bulbs are perhaps the most natural choice as a simple way of providing early colour.
With little maintenance required it's no surprise we see many a garden patchworked with colourful carpets courtesy of the packets they planted last autumn.
And don't worry if you missed the autumn planting time, for many bulbs are available as potted plants in the garden centre this time of year to give you some instant results.
Snowdrops in fact even prefer to be planted "in the green" and will establish much more readily from a potted plant.
Crocus and iris are also early flowering bulbs that are readily available in pots.
The much sought-after cyclamen corm has fortunately proved to be in plentiful supply this year, and those patient enough to await their establishment will be rewarded with something very special.
Primroses though must be the kings when it comes to the colourful early starters.
Just a few carefully chosen plants near the doorstep will warm the heart in any weather and never fail to draw the eye with their bright and vibrant colours.
They are ideal for containers and carefully selected colour mixes are available in the garden centre to create some stunning effects.
Try extending the display by combining them with some later flowering bulbs such as the early flowering tulips, also available in pots.
There are some exciting early flowering perennials stirring in the borders which are also worth an early trip to the garden centre.
Hellebores are also extremely popular, and fortunately these too require little effort to succeed.
Once the Christmas Rose (Helleborous niger) has made its entrance, ironically normally in January, it's the turn of the orientalis species to really raise some eyebrows.
It is their gift of prolifically producing seedlings, each one with its very own individually coloured and marked flower, which really brings home how creative mother nature can be.
It's a very exciting experience sifting through all the blooms in the centre to find your favourite, even more so each year when you discover what nature has created among the new offspring.
And before we know it, it will be the turn of the daffodils to turn on the magic with their rich golden trumpets.
Be sure to include early, mid-season and late flowering varieties to keep the season going.
The variety "February Gold" can easily be missed among all the packets of bulbs in the centre in the autumn, much to many people's regret when they discover that first magical display.