Actually, I had a hint of their activities yesterday. Daddy's favourite (cat) brought home the bacon: this time it was a kind of largish hamster-size mouse with the most appalling yellow teeth. I now realise that I have only ever seen baby water voles (Arvicola terrestris) before. This beast was a little frightening. And I began to understand why my husband's tiny mousetraps stood no chance of working (although ants and possibly small shrews etc., enjoyed the peanut butter muchly, thank-you!). Unfortunately I did not think quickly enough to take a picture. My first reaction was to get rid of it - it's not normal for me to relish photographing dead bodies, although that may change...
Anyway - today it became clear that I had been deceiving myself during my brief forays into the garden to hastily stick things in the ground. I realised that they had started on my Nepeta x faasenii 'Six Hills Giant' (two plants feared dead). More worryingly, they may also have eaten some chives (but perhaps these are sweeter than true onions and garlic, which we are hopefully imagining are deterrents?). Much worse - they have used those ghastly little yellow teeth on a plant that I had joyfully planted last April and whose buds I had been observing. His picture is above - Syringa 'Charles Joly'. This is a superb lilac (colour gorgeous, although not as fragrant as some). It was bred by Lemoine, a nurseryman from Nancy (which just happens to be the main town in Lorraine, where we live). M. Lemoine will be well known to English plantsmen & women: he produced some superb plants, specialising in lilac, spirea, philadelphus and (I think) deutzia and weigela. There is a nursery near Nancy attempting to preserve, propagate, sell on M. Lemoine's plants. I hope perhaps to visit the nursery and write a little more about him in a future blog - but back to the story in hand.
I planted two lilacs last spring, 'Charles Joly' and 'Madame Lemoine' (naming of latter fairly obvious - a gorgeous double white). Lilacs hold a special place in my heart because I was born in Canada and I once read that it was a pioneer tradition in Canada to plant a lilac next to the back door when you had erected your house: they would bring good luck, a bit like elder or mountain ash in the UK. I know that my Granny, who lived in St Catherine's, Ontario, had some stunning lilacs by her back steps down from the kitchen into the garden. If there are any Canadians reading who know more about this tradition, I would love to hear from you!
Anyway, back to the sad monsieur. I lifted his companion immediately from the ground (as you can imagine). She was fine. In fact M. Joly himself had a few pathetic little roots: if he was a rose, I would expect him to survive, based on previous experience. But we'll see. M. Lemoine's progeny are now enjoying a little holiday on the veg patch where the voles don't (currently) visit.
I went briskly up to the house, ate four chocolate biscuits (I am on a diet) and thought about ringing the estate agent (the tears you can take for granted). Three quarters of an hour later I was back down digging. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?
Happier story this time. When we arrived here in 2011 I had at least six pots full of lovely little cyclamen tubers (various species) that I had grown from seed, courtesy of the Hardy Plant Society and the Alpine Garden Society. They were about 4 years old (a bit crowded in pots), but really starting to flower and begging to be planted out. In our first winter here they were all killed in the cold frames. My fault, I think, since I stupidly did not plunge the pots. However - one little C. coum survived, now planted out in the Vine Garden, where I think cyclamen may well enjoy the summer; I hope to add more. My sole survivor was set out in the autumn. I'm a bit of a fibber, because the picture above only represents what I hope it will look like in a few years. However I have taken the liberty of adding it because I noticed that my own little C. coum had produced a (very, very late?) flower bud - and I am (occasionally) hopeful. Rejoice, all was not lost in the great cyclamen slaying of 2011!