a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

To a Squirrel


Being a practical sort of person I have tried to  acquire plants that have more than one virtue.  By that I mean if I would like a beautiful flower I try to choose a perfumed variety.

I decided to plant a green hazelnut on the road side of the garden as they grow quickly to provide screening and also produce hazelnuts.

Promising green hazelnuts in July

I decided a purple hazelnut would also work well to give some different foliage colour in spring time.

Purple hazel tree at the end of April

They are not such abundant nut producers but given I had the other trees I felt I would be amply provided for.

Purple hazel nut in July

This year the crop has not been plentiful and I have worked out why.

Hazel nut shells in my plum tree

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

With apologies to Rabbie Burns

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Mouse for the full version and translation, if need be.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

10 thoughts on “To a Squirrel

  1. The dear animals, right? I remember the time the hens broke into the tomatoes….


  2. There’s always next year! 😉 Our squirrels returned this spring… last year there weren’t any in our garden, and we had lovely hazelnuts for the first time ever – maybe the last time too!


    • The squirrels are a new “addition” to our garden. The ones I spotted are red ones which I thought preferred areas with conifers. In Scotland it was mainly the red ones I saw but in the south of England it was mainly the grey American imports.
      We got most of our hazelnuts outside the garden last year so it looks as if we are going to have to forage again this year. Amelia


  3. Amelia, I think your squirrel is not the one to blame… squirrels split the nut open from the top… split being the operative word… round/oval holes like these are the work of mice and voles. The hammered holes [the smaller ones] look like the work of a greater-spotted woodpecker or a jay who didn’t think it worth continuing.
    We’ve had very similar broken open nuts.
    The Red Squirrels here in France are much more cosmopolitain about where they feed… the reason for them being mainly in pine woods in the UK is that the greys are not successful there so the reds survive.
    We haven’t had any red squirrels here this year… some over-enthusiastic river bank work has destroyed the natural corridors for the moment… hopefully they’ll be back as the cover re-grows. Fortunately, we haven’t had a colony establish itself along our stretch… there wouldn’t have been a way for them to get to other feeding grounds and there wouldn’t have been enough food in our half kilometer of riverbank… it is mainly ash and they cannot live on ash keys alone.


    • I saw the red squirrel in the garden and I found the eaten nuts – you are correct, it is very unsubstantiated evidence. What is more we do have jays in the garden who came to the plum tree earlier for the plums and we do have woodpeckers. I can only say I have seen the squirrel heading out of the purple hazel and I suspect his motives for being there. I will examine our empty shells more closely from now on.


  4. Whoever the culprits, I like the way they neatly empty the shells leaving them mainly intact. One of the nice things about jersey is they still have reds (no greys). And the locals take care of them. We saw ropes joining treetops over busy roads and squirrels using them.


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