Every year garden magazines and columns give us advice on what to do in the garden month by month. We’re used to being told that areas to the north might be a week or two behind those in the south but this year, we are all in this together being about a month behind.

Due to late frosts and bitter winds, there have been many casualties in this garden near the east coast. A bonus is that primroses have lingered and lilacs are coming into bloom. Otherwise narcissi have mostly gone over – depending on variety – and tulips have finally given up after being forced to bend over so many times in response to brutally cold conditions.

So where are the bright spots in the garden? Apple and cherry blossom has been spectacular as ever but our hawthorn has yet to flower. A shrub that often gets overlooked for being more understated than fruit blossom is Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea or, to keep it simple, the Japanese barberry. A happy accident is the way the Kerria japonica has grown into it, making a lovely contrast to gladden the heart and lift the spirits while we’re stuck in shivery mode.