Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Safe from frost yet? “Les cavaliers” and “Les saints de glace”


After last week’s summer temperatures and clear skies, this week has been unusually cold and wet for May.  The vines are growing their bright green spring leaves and in the picture above the rain clouds were clearing away over the mountains to the north this morning, but they returned later, with cold winds too.  In France gardeners talk of les saints de glace – the saints’ days which are the last likely dates for frost in spring. 

The gardening advice for Saint Mamert, 11 May, is: Attention, le premier des saints de glace, souvent tu en gardes la trace – Beware, the first of the ice saints, often you will bear its mark.  Saint Pancrace (12 May) apport souvent la glace – often brings ice.   Saint Servais (13 May) also brings frost, and rain too: Quand il pleut à la Saint Servais, pour le blé, signe mauvais – When it rains on Saint Servais, for the wheat, it’s a bad signThese saints’ names were removed from the official calendar of the Catholic church in 1960 because the traditions surrounding them were considered pagan, and they have been replaced by Sainte Estelle, Sainte Achille and Sainte Rolande, but gardeners continue to talk of the saints de glace. All these dates were mentioned in a conversation I had about the weather in the queue at the charcuterie stall in the market this morning.

La lune rousse

The lunar period between mid-April and mid-May is also known as la lune rousse, the russet moon, so called not because of the colour of the moon itself but because a late frost can turn plants brown.

Les cavaliers

Here in the Midi we hope not to have such late frosts and gardeners wait instead until after the saints’ days of les cavaliers have passed to plant out tender plants.  These are: Saint George (23 April), St Marc (25 April), Saint Eutrope (30 April), Sainte Croix (3 May) and Saint Jean (6 May).  So from tomorrow onwards we should be all right, although it still feels unseasonally cold.  We had more than 24 hours of heavy rain yesterday – good for the vines according to a friend who is a viticulteur, because it was steady rain which soaked into the ground and did not flood.  The stream from the spring at the top of the hill above the gardens was full of water, cascading down the hillside today, which is good news for all of us who use it for our vegetables.  We need some warmer weather again, though, and definitely no more frosts!

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Water on the hillside, and on our balcony.


Jan said...

Our neighbour has all his plants under rows of black plastic for the moment. When he removes it I shall know that we're in the clear!

Jon Storey said...

We in Northumberland were threatened with frosts last weekend but fortunately we escaped, the fruit trees will be grateful.

mo said...

What a fascinating post.....I love gardening folklore, there HAS to be something in it!

impoftheyard said...

It's been beautifully sunny here but really pretty cold. I don't mind that so much - the sun always cheers me up.