For most of us, there’s no escaping the tight grip of winter in January and February, but a garden can still stir the heart in positive ways at this time of year.

At first glance, our gardens may look like they’re slumbering, but under the chilly surface things are happening; signs that spring is waiting in the wings. Look out for the first snowdrops or golden winter aconites coming into flower, bringing an uplifting dash of life to a bare garden. With its white flowers, the Christmas rose, (Helleborus niger), can also make a welcome appearance, while the flowering shrub, wintersweet produces an enticing scent. 

Put simply, don’t let the weather stop you from getting a feel-good dose of nature.  

Wrap up and explore what your garden or local park has to offer. Evergreen shrubs, plants with colourful barks and the bare branch outlines of trees on frosty mornings can all contribute to a sense of wellbeing. 

Due to the season’s weather, January is a month when the gardener doesn’t have a hectic agenda. Seed sowing is a hopeful (and money-saving) activity. Although spring is the peak time for it, some sowing can start now. 

Looking forward
Summer bedding plants, such as begonias, can be sown in a warm propagator, while onion seeds will germinate in temperatures between 16C and 21C. For something to look forward to earlier, tulip bulbs can still be planted up to mid-January. 

Like an orchestra tuning up for a concert, February is a month that lends itself to preparation for the symphonies of spring as the sap is rising and the sunshine makes more frequent appearances.  

For veg lovers, peas, broad beans, lettuce, radish and beetroot can all be sown inside in modules without heat as long as they have good light, planting them out when it gets warmer. If the soil isn’t frozen, February is a good time to plant bare root deciduous shrubs, such as roses, and trees. 

But if that seems too strenuous, there’s much to be said for browsing seed catalogues with a cup of tea. With spring on the horizon, it’s never too soon to make gardening plans. 

Mark Lang works for the horticultural therapy charity, Thrive. For more practical tips and information about gardening for wellbeing, sign-up to Thrive’s free Gardening Club: