Spring and the weather

Deceptive the March sunshine. It has some power in it now, the sun index starting to curve up, the light bright, further enhanced as it illuminates a still stark landscape together with rapidly increasing daylength, but you know what, it's still bloody cold!

Spring is late, nightly frosts just keep coming and it's holding everything back. It's been the same over a great swathe of Europe this winter and the start to spring. For months our weather has come from the east. At times back in January and February there were cold blasts tracking all the way from Russia. These weather patterns are relatively rare and as a rule we look to the west for our weather, but there's an old saying 'when the wind is in the east 'tis neither fit for man nor beast' and this year it's held true.

Of course like everywhere the landscape here is full of micro climates. These pictures above are of my local village Les Eyzies. Sitting in the Vézère Valley, it's certainly a frost hollow, but being built into limestone cliffs it also becomes very warm during Summer as the heat radiates back from the rocks and frequently records some of the highest temperatures in the Dordogne. Back in August 2003, there were numerous occasions where 40 C. was reached or surpassed and most years there'll be a day or two when the temperature climbs close to that mark.

The Dordogne valley also has its fair share of climatic variations. Many an Autumn morning sees the chateau at Beynac (above) lit up by the early morning sun whilst the village below is shrouded in fog until early afternoon. Frequently this leads to a temperature inversion of up to five degrees with these 'pockets' of climate accounting for the considerable variance in first and last frost dates within the department.

La Roque Gageac's sheltered south facing position has allowed a tropical garden to be developed over the years. It's quite something to climb ever higher through it's narrow streets adorned with bougainvillea and tender palms. Again, the limestone acts as a great big radiator increasing heating degrees and raising night time minima.

Even the spectacular park and gardens at Marqueyssac (They were featured in this months Gardens Illustrated magazine) support microclimate within microclimate. A belvedere elevated just above the cold pooling valley air, its southern flank supports trees such as Montpellier Maples more typical of the Mediterranean whilst to the north Hornbeams and Holm Oaks are more typical.

No matter what the micro climate maybe, this winter has dragged on. Sure enough in terms of absolute minimum temperature it's zone 8, but this years frequency of frost makes it feel harsher. It's forecast -6 tonight, sigh, there's so much waiting to be done, but all is on hold until a change in the weather.

PS Marqueyssac photo was taken back in September '09.


  1. WOW, This was the best little computer vacation (from work)! Thanks for the pictures. They're incredible.

  2. I really enjoyed the tour of this area. It's so scenic, it doesn't seem like it would matter what time or the year it was taken. I know you're ready for some spring weather so you can work in your gardens. Hope the wind shifts and you get some warm air blown your way :)

  3. Those cliffs are magnificent! What a beautiful place. I envy you your zone 8!

  4. Wow. I've been to the Dordogne once, and this post makes me want to go back so badly. I was too young to really appreciate it the first time around.

  5. I'm coming to visit you. Make way. I'll be there in 12 hours. I'll brush up on my 10 years of french of the plane (french I've not used in many a moon, too).

  6. A great tour of the microclimates in your area. I do hope spring arrives soon for you.

    I've been (foolishly, if we hit another cold snap) pretending that it's spring and working for days in the garden, even moving a few perennials. The 7 day forecast has no freezing temps, so I hope the worst is over.

    Counting the days until Antibes...

  7. Beautiful pictures! Just incredible scenery. I noticed little cave like doors in the cliffs do you know what they are for? It must be fascinating living in an area with such a rich history staring you in the face at every turn. The castle on the hillside picture is great!

  8. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the lovely tour..

  9. Beautiful pictures! We, too, have had an unusual winter! I hope spring comes to you soon.

  10. What a great post Rob. Its still cold here in the mornings and a few weeks to go yet I suspect before winter lets go its cold grip. I love that tropical garden.

  11. Hi Debbies Garden, Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed a swift vacation.

    Catherine, exactly. Chomping at the bit. It's not just gardening on hold but many outside jobs as I can't mix mortar, paint etc. in the frost.

    Hi Magpie and Jess, thanks. The Dordogne is a stunning place.

    Hi Benjamin, not long then, better get my skates on, so much to do. You learnt French on a plane for 10 years???

    Hello Cameron, It was briefly mild for a number of days a week or two ago but (luckily) a bit too early to kick seeds off etc.
    Antibes will be terrific, oh and frost free!

    Dave thanks, those little cave like doors are exactly that. They were once cave dwellings, home to cro-magnon man and true troglodyte living. They continued to be in use through the centuries evening forming the basis for entire middle age villages.
    Some of the cave paintings are 20,000 years old and depict animals such as mammoth which roamed here during the Ice age:) to think I moan about the frost!!!

    Laura, southern lady thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the tour, may your spring be a warm one.

    Hi Hermes, cheers, the weather forecast on the beeb suggests milder weather for you from the weekend. Fingers crossed.

  12. ... Gaaahhh... I want to have that surrounding villages too! And that garden at Marqueyssac...*sigh* Absolutely wonderful, all that softly manicured boxes. So dreamlike and sensous.
    Thank you, thank you for sharing:-)

  13. I really don't know where to begin, Rob. These photos are amazing, your micro-climate tour breathtaking! I would so love to visit someday ... *sigh*. We have finally been blessed with springlike weather, 10º above normal. I feel the warmth of the sun and snow is melting. Soon, we'll be smelling the rich earth. Spring will come ... it always does, though often in its own good time :)

  14. Wow, what a treat! Our spring is starting late too. This is the first week in a long time that we've had temperatures in the 50s and 60s. It feels great.

  15. Yes that March sunshine is certainly deceptive Rob. Not time to discard winter clothes just yet. I knew that I had seen the garden in the bottom photo before :)

  16. Oh I love it when you post pictures!!! Those were beautiful. Someday, someday I'll get to France....

  17. I believe you live in heaven....

  18. It's interesting that "weather weirding" knows no boundaries.

    By the way, I really enjoy your photography, and thank you for allowing us an arm chair tour.

  19. You live in an amazing place! Thank you for the tour. I love the topiary park.

  20. Hi Trädgårdsmakare Hillevissan
    Marquayssac is a truly remarkable place

    Joey, Phillip I'm glad you're getting some more springlike weather at last.

    Anna, I was pleasantly surprised to see Marquayssac featured in March edition of Gardens Illustrated mag

    Paula, Tim, Les, this is a beautiful part of the world, glad you enjoyed the tour.

    Sweetbay, thanks, there's a lot of skill in clipping that box

  21. Rob, incredible! your photos and this beautiful town built into a hillside of limestone. I was reviewing some photos from a trip over 40 years ago and the experience when we first saw Eze. These places have me nearly speechless with admiration for the beauty.

    We'll try and get some warmer air moving toward you... that is as soon as our most recent cold spell passes. ;)

  22. Those are some incredible pictures! So fascinating. I know out west such as in Arizona where I once lived, those boulders would hold a lot of heat. I think it is the same everywhere this year with winter. We have recently had 4 days in the 60's and 70's, and now rain and storm plus cold! So, so ready for spring. Can't wait to see what you show us next time. It really makes me want to visit your area one day.

  23. hi rob-
    we have exactly the same weather pattern here in ga. warmish days, but still 25 at night. the prolonged cold is quite unusual, as folks here traditionally plant potatoes on valentine's day.
    it's curious that the same pattern
    of easterly weather brings us cold temps, fog and rain. by this time,
    we usually bask in warm winds off the gulf of mexico.
    best regards- joanne

  24. The weather extremes are somewhat similar in my part of Northern California (though we are noticeably lacking in castles). It's warm and fog free where I live, but a few miles away, Berkeley will be socked in, while higher up, the Berkeley Hills sit above it all.

    The topiary looks a bit like the quiet part at the beginning of a horror movie, right before all the plants come alive and eat you.

  25. Hi Ulrike, Goodness I bet there's some heat radiation from the boulders in Arizona.

    Johanna lea, I need a week near the gulf of mexico right now. Or the Carribean, or the bahamas or... just spring really!

    Hi Susan

    'the topiary looks like the quiet part at the beginning of a horror movie', stoppit, I was chuffed with that photo. Anyway, add California to my list of places I need to be right now....

  26. mon dieu, how i long for a beautiful stay in a sweet village like yours in the french countryside....it looks like bliss...btw i'm famished is a there a nice boulangerie close by...or maybe a yummy patisserie, either would do :)

  27. Hi Noel, there's a wonderful boulangerie/patisserie nearby.

    I've just been admiring your artwork over at your hawaii blog. Actually, stick Hawaii on the list of places I need to be until the weather improves

  28. Your blog is full of incredibly beautiful and inspirational pictures, as well as informative. I wonder how is it possible that I haven’t found it before? Never mind; I'm happy to follow you from now on. :)
    Have a nice day.

  29. Beautiful town, beautiful photographs!

    Hello by way of Blotanical.

  30. Rob,
    La Rogue's gardens are the single -minded/single-handed vision an work of an amazing gardener... Gerard. He has attracted many tour buses to the village. We hope to get back to visit our friend who has a cave-house near the gardens as soon as the kids are a bit older. You are lucky to live in such a historic area.

  31. WOW!!! I'd love to see that with my own eyes. Purhaps this summervacation.. I'l have to le my husband see this, it's amzing, so beautiful. Thanks for charing / gittan

  32. I fell across the doorstep of your blog, while nursing a miserable spring headcold. Thanks for the tour of these beautiful cliffside towns!


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