Stolen tree - again!

Last year we went away for 3 days in early July and returned to find that a recently planted tree had been stolen from our property in Ger, Basse Normandie.

The tree was a tall slim fastigiate copper beech, Fagus Silvaticus Dawyck Purple, about 5 feet tall. I was very upset by this theft as I had cared for this tree for several years and planted it in it's final position (or so I thought !) only about 2 months previously.

The tree had simply been pulled up – obviously very easy as it was newly planted and the ground is soft. The strange thing was that nothing else had been taken – other trees and plants in pots as well as tools etc. which were easily accessible – we therefore came to the conclusion that somebody had simply coveted this tree, which was visible from the road.

As I was so upset at the loss of this tree Paul, my partner, ordered a replacement from the nursery in England where we had bought the original. We picked the new tree up at the Courson garden show in October and planted it immediately.

This second tree was even better than the first, was now 6 foot tall and doing really well – that is until last Monday.

On Tuesday we were devastated to find that this tree, like its predecessor, had been pulled up and stolen. The thief had also taken a second tree a fastigiate oak, quercus robur koster, about 4 feet tall. This was a beautiful tree, a tall, very slim oak tree with light green leaves, and was standing with 3 other oaks of various varieties in pots waiting to be planted. Ironically, I had decided to use this as a replacement for the stolen fagus.

It is strange that the thief is so selective, just seemingly choosing the trees he wants and leaving other, equally valuable trees.

What is really worrying is that we had assumed that the thief saw the original tree from the road and simply came onto the property to take it – the oak was not visible from the road and was in a secluded area of the property, which means that the thief has been all over the property, so nothing is safe – a very unpleasant feeling.

As on the previous occasion, nothing else had been taken, although there were other items easily accessible, including other trees and plants in pots. I can only guess that it was the same thief on each occasion.

I am posting this in the faint hope that somebody might know of someone who has acquired one of these trees or has been offered one.

The picture shows the beech tree taken just a couple of days before it was stolen

move over, Miss Marple! hee hee

Thank you Pamela and John for your replies.

I like your ideas – really devious ! I will certainly try some of your suggestions.

I would really like to catch this callous individual, whose actions have caused us so much unnecessary upset and have totally spoilt the joy we got from the garden.


On a practical note - do you have a computer you can set up near a window which overlooks that part of the garden? If so, you can buy an external camera (one like you would use for skyping etc) and connect it to your computer. They are not too expensive, I believe. Then you get two cheap trees, but which look unusual, exotic or expensive, and put on a label like it's from the garden centre, and write something like 'ficus grandiflora' and a price of €69.95. The thief might be tempted by your 'expensive' plant and dig up the cheapie. If that happens, take a look at the recording and note the time and direction from which s/he enters. Plant the second with the same setup - fake tag - and see if you can angle the camera to get a really good picture of the thief.

Thank you Pamela. Yes that sums it up exactly – on top of the upset of losing the trees we constantly have the unpleasant feeling that someone is watching the place, waiting until they spot something else that they fancy.

I really want to replace the tree that was pulled up, as the empty hole reminds me every day, but if I do I know that I'll be constantly waiting for the thief to take the replacement again. I will probably wait until we have installed cctv (more expense that we can't really afford !) and hope that we can catch someone red handed.

I can only assume that they justify their theft by the fact that they were selective and didn't take anything else. A few years ago 3 wisterias in pots were stolen from the property. I challenged a French man who had done some work for us. He replied that he had the wisterias but hadn't “stolen” them he had just “taken” them. How do you deal with that sort of moral standard ?! He then returned me 3 clematis ! And, yes, I have asked him about the trees, but he denies it.

I like your idea of the posts – perhaps we'll do that.

We have reported the thefts to the local Mairie and the Gendarmerie. The gendarmes were absolutely charming and very helpful but of course, as we knew, couldn't really do anything. They did however say that there had been a spate of thefts targeted at English-owned homes in the area.

We did actually wonder, as the tree last year was taken in early July and the trees this year were taken in late June, whether it was somebody who comes over to France at that time each year – but who knows ?

the hounds! It's awful to have anything stolen, but selective theft from your garden means that someone is watching the place. Trees are quite expensive and then all the work and care to replace it (if you can find another easily) puts you out of pocket and also means if you do replace you're back to scratch with the growing. It might be a good idea to report the thefts to your local maire, just in case anyone else has the same experience. And if it would be me, I'd be tempted to put up posts where the trees used to be, with a picture and comment that your trees have been stolen and people should look out. Not sure if this would shame the thief into returning the trees, but then at least the neighbourhood can be on alert. And if you buy any new ones, make sure you put a good meter of manure on the ground around it so the thief gets smelly and dirty feet!