You will never see all the blossom at the same time." The locations of the UK's best blossoms are hotly debated, but the Natural History Museum survey has located trees in the most far-flung corners of the country.

The northern-most cherry is in Mainland in the Orkneys, where there are few trees of any kind, the southern-most a bird cherry in Guernsey, and the most westerly a Japanese cherry in the Scilly Isles.

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As soon as trees come into blossom, spirits are lifted." The last three blossom seasons have been patchy at best, according to gardening experts.

And while it may seem like blossom is early this year, in fact the season is right on time, says Tony Kirkham.

"There are three dormancy phases in a plant's cycle: early rest, winter rest and after rest.

In the after rest period, certain plants require a certain amount of 'frost units' to break dormancy.

"Brogdale in Kent is a fantastic place - I always go to look at the blossom there each year.

"And Batsford Arboretum is another great place for cherry blossom." But there are factors that could shorten the season in different areas, including heavy rain, which can destroy flowers.

Many Japanese varieties have been imported to the UK over the years but native species remain popular too.

The Natural History Museum is in the third year of its national three-year cherry blossom survey.

For many people, the change in season from winter to spring is marked when bare tree branches suddenly burst into life, says Juliet Roberts, the editor of Gardens Illustrated. It has an innocent, simple beauty and its short lifespan is viewed by many cultures as a potent reminder of our own mortality.

"Looking out for what each season has to offer, however ephemeral the moment, is a lovely way of enjoying the here and now," she says.

"What you want is a fairly chilly and damp January and February, a warm and sunny March, and some rain, not downpours," Ted Hobday says.