02 March 2008

March roars in... softly

Primroses in the yard

Typical March weather didn't wait long to arrive with the change in the calendar. Friday night, February 29, the wind started howling and howled all night. Saturday morning the temperatures were spring-like (10ºC/50ºF) and the rest of the weather was too, I guess. It was rainy and gray.

Forsythia in the back yard on 29 February 2008

Just after sunup, the wind suddenly stopped blowing. But a fine mist was still falling out of low gray clouds. Then those clouds broke up and the sun shone brightly by mid-morning. I wouldn't be surprised to see a heavy shower or two during the day. Ce sont les giboulées de mars -- "March showers," the equivalent of April showers in the eastern U.S. (Sunday morning update: it was sunny all day yesterday, with no rain at all.)

Jonquils are in flower by March 1

Here in Saint-Aignan, we have a long springtime. It begins most years in late February and lasts until late May. Some years it's warmer than others, of course, and we still could have a freeze or two, or even a little snow. But the plants that flower early have now flowered. The grass is turning very green. The first lawn mowing is usually necessary by the end of March. And that's a shame, because wild primroses and cyclamens grown in big patches all around out there.

Forsythia, obviously ready for its close-up

Last year we had a very warm month of April but a chilly month of May and a mediocre summer. By August, the garden was a disaster except for zucchini and pumpkins. We are hoping for a cooler month of April this year if that is the price we have to pay for a warm dry summer and a good vegetable garden.

Cyclamens start growing and flowering in the back yard
in early February

Walt, who is upstairs looking out the window, just informed me that a big black cloud is headed our way —it's Saturday morning, March 1, as I type this. A big black cloud producing a hard, cold shower is just what I expected. (But it never happened...)

The ornamental cherry tree in our yard and the tree covered
in white flowers over in the neighbor's yard were in full flower
on Feburary 29 this year.

The local wisdom says that you shouldn't plant your vegetable garden until May 15, because there is a danger of frost until then. Of course, last year, people who jumped the gun and set out tomato and pepper plants in April probably did the right thing by ignoring the conventional advice. May was chilly and gray, but the temperature never went down to freezing.

A bush covered in red flowers in another neighbor's yard
on February 27

As some sage said about April, spring is in some ways the cruelest season. Our hopes rise with the sap, but the weather has plenty of ups and downs. It's human nature to want it to get warm and stay warm, but the world isn't made that way. It's more like a roller coaster ride.

After all those flowers, doesn't this one look very wintery?
I took it in late February too, out on the edge of the vineyard.

So here it is March 1 and you are looking at all the flowers around La Renaudière, outside Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, in the Loire Valley region of France. Actually, all of these pictures were taken during the last few days of February. If there is still snow on the ground where you live, I'm sorry. And if you are in a sunny warm place at this season, please send some hot air our way. We will use it wisely.

Two different kinds of sedum now pushing up leaves

Sedum plants that I put pots a couple of years ago are coming up really fast, just like the tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils. Peonies ae also pushing up green leaves. The pots of sedum stayed outdoors all winter and didn't freeze. The sedum in the round pot in the top picture grew from a cutting that I brought back from North Carolina in 2005. The sedum in the big square planter was growing in a flower bed in the yard here when we arrived in 2003.


  1. "April is the cruellest month.."

    Eliot, The Waste Land: but that was all about being reminded of what's been lost, which hardly seems to apply to most of us. Personally, I can't wait!

  2. Just sent a big box of hot air that I collected yesterday when we hit 86°F. Put it to good use. Those flowers are really lovely. Hope the weather will be according to your wishes, and mine, this year in France.

  3. Here in Southern Ontario it is still freezing cold. No sign of Spring yet.

  4. It's good to see that spring may at last be close.

    Are the cowslips (coucou) out yet? I hope to be there to take some more photos of the spring wildflowers this year, but cowslips are the first and I am worried I might miss them

  5. Just an ordinary spring here, which is to say, darned nice. Our fava beans are thigh-high, and the plum and apricot trees are in full bloom. We haven't yet had our traditional big wind that blows most of the blooms to Half Moon Bay. The garden daffodils are done, but there are plenty at Trader Joe's.

    As for the hot air, we'd be happy to send you our politicians, who are in fine form, with only months and months (and months) to go. (I love the scent of a good straight line in the springtime.)

  6. Claudia in Toronto02 March, 2008 17:39

    Even if it's still harsh Winter outside, your beautiful flowers add vibrant colours to my room and fill it with the promise of Spring.

  7. autolycus, in French we say:
    "en avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil".
    But then I remember being in London last year in March, and walking down Regent St, had to take off my jacket at it was incredibly warm. And then a couple of weeks later... back to cold and rain.
    Ken, your garden is just beautiful! Those flower photos are so refreshing


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