Easing oneself outdoors at this time of year requires something a bit special, and the jewel-like beauty of Sempervivums is where I always turn when everything needs cheering up a bit.
Sempervivum (or Houseleeks) are beautiful, endlessly fascinating and (most importantly) virtually indestructible. Curiousplants.co.uk sell a great collection of 20, or you can find them in small containers in most nurseries. The best option is to use a shallow container on a table for easy gawping, but equally shove them into cracks and crevices in walls, paths or steps that either exist due to benign neglect, or are created by you, who prefer plants to mortar. They don’t need a lot of soil. Use a very free-draining mixture of 70% multi-purpose compost and 30% horticultural grit (or you could buy a bag of cactus compost)…wetness is the enemy here. Either plant them an inch or two apart so as to leave room for the babies to establish, or put them shoulder to shoulder, and you can remove and re-plant off-sets as they appear. For cracks and crevices, push some compost into the hole and squish the plant in until it feels secure. You can be rather more brutal that you think; these are tough plants and a few squashed leaves won’t matter. Otherwise, it’s highly tempting to make patterns, although once a rosette has flowered it dies off, so you’d have to replace it in order to maintain perfect symmetry, which might rather take the pleasure out of gardening.