What to do
* Palms have become standard kit in small-town gardens, where they usually thrive in the extra warmth created by escaped central heating. One of the most popular is the chusan palm 'Trachycarpus fortunei', with handsome pleated leaves. The dwarf palm 'Chamaerops humilis' is also reasonably hardy in sheltered gardens, but both need extra care while they are still young plants.
* Sow chillies, two seeds to a pot, but keep them somewhere warm. They do best in a greenhouse, but if you want to try them in pots outside, keep them protected until the end of May. Chiltern Seeds (chilternseeds.co.uk; 01491 824675) list 12 different sorts, including Italian-bred 'Etna' (£2.20) and 'Jalapeno' (£1.95), a Mexican favourite.
What to see
* Kew's Orchid Spectacular continues until 9 March in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens (020-8332 5655; kew.org), with massed displays of vandas, dendrobiums and phalaenopsis (moth orchids). Free with normal admission (£14.50).