At this time of year most gardeners are looking for bright colours to cheer up a window view. A carnival of tulips is the usual solution; coming in a rainbow of shades from dark purples to punky, streaky pinks, there's usually at least one that appeals.
But much as there is to love about the gaudiness of bright colours, I'd still argue that the most uplifting spring sight is fresh green, reminding us that new growth is on its way. Baby leaves emerge, tiny and fuzzy with protective hairs, in the palest, zingiest hues. It's that tangy green that you see when you look upwards walking under trees whose foliage is just opening – captured by David Hockney in his paintings of Woldgate Wood in Yorkshire, where the brown beech leaf litter, grey trunks and almost purple earth set off the total freshness of the green overhead.
And don't worry: if you go for green, you don't have to miss out on flowers. Think of viridiflora varieties: the blooms all come with a streak of soft tulipy green right up the centre of each petal.
"Spring Green" is a current favourite of mine, and the one you are most likely to find on sale. It has green stripes floating on huge white petals. I'm not sure about the teacuppy shape, which looks bizarre if they are planted close together. But plant them apart, avoiding lines and rows, and they look like gentle green lanterns.
There are also lots of viridiflora tulips that have the same green streaks but are partnered with pink and purple petals. I go slightly mad for this combination, though the glamour of the varieties related to the "Hollywood" tulip, such as the pink-and-green "Esperanto", is almost too much for me, as they all add fancily white-edged leaves into the bargain. "Artist", meanwhile, has enough green and pink zing to power a small incubator full of Easter chicks.
For the true lover of subtle, early greens there is no better plant than the fritillary. By far the most famous of these spring bulbs is the "Snake's Head", patterned in burgundy. But other fritillaries offer the same restrained pleasures in delicate shades of mountain green.
One of the best is the Fritillaria persica, originally from Iran and Turkey, which produces 2ft-high stems of dark purplish flowers. While a recent introduction has been Fritillaria persica alba "Ivory Bells", which has gorgeous creamy-green bells.
But my favourites of this species are the tiny alpines: fussy, delicate and graceful beauties. Fritillaria elwesii looks like a drawing by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, all threading, sinuous Art Deco lines. The Greek fritillary, F. graeca, grows much closer to the ground, its plain burgundy bells rolling drips of green down each petal's centre. From Turkey, F. crassifolia and Fritillaria bucharica provide the most striking collection of bells.
To grow fritillaries for more than a year, you have to accept that you can't just plant them anywhere you fancy. They are plants which will dictate their preferences to you: in particular, they demand soil you have taken care over. Make sure you get detailed growing instructions from your supplier – some need to be dry in summer, others must stay moist. Ideally, most of the mountainous species will want to live in low-sided alpine "pans": wide, shallow terracotta pots. Provide enough organic matter (such as leaf litter) to supply moisture, but ensure good drainage so they don't sit in the damp.
And the advantage of pots for the grower, of course, is that you can move them around depending on what's looking the best. So your window with a view can overlook the very best in green.
Get the look...
Won the RHS Order of Garden Merit. Plant in late autumn for a good display. From Bloms, www.blomsbulbs. com
Rewards a nice sunny spot with three weeks of flowering. Also from Bloms, as above
One of the easier fritillaries, it will still need well-drained, rich soil. Possibly to be seen and not smelt, due to a skunk-like fragrance. From Avon Bulbs, www.avonbulbs.co.ukReuse content