After an unconscionably mild Christmas, and a January that was almost warm, with spring bulbs rushing to get on with life, we have suddenly this week been hit by a good, hard winter freeze. I'm not sure the temperature has gone above freezing all day (apologies to friends in Scandinavia - I do know that to you this is mild!). Outside in the Gardens the snowdrops are holding their own in glittering ranks, but many other over-eager flowers have been stricken.
Today is clear and still and one's breath rises like ice-mist. In the early morning I walked through from the gate through to the office in the brilliant oblique light, and the stillness all around was uncanny. Just one robin was singing, a thin trail of sound from the holly tree by the back door. The only other sound was the crunch of my feet on the rock-hard ground.
But in the Alpine House there are bowls of scented narcissi - N. papyraceus with its silvery-white blooms, and the delicate, golden N. jonquilla. And in the Princess of Wales Conservatory the big Tropical Extravaganza displays are completed, all set for the official opening tomorrow - great banks and columns of anthuriums and orchids, swinging curtains of tillandsias, bromeliads like torches... Colour and warmth, such a blessing at this time of year.
Now the forecast is for possible snow on Sunday. Brr... I'm taking my head-cold home now to give it more vitamin C and echinacea. Have a good weekend and keep warm, everyone!