For the past few years Essex Police have been working with the Royal Horticultural Society to promote and publicise the benefits of defensive planting as a crime prevention measure.
Defensive planting is one of a number of simple and affordable crime prevention measures that can be incorporated into any front or rear garden to add an extra layer of security, which will help deter opportunistic burglars and protect a home.
Essex Police Strategic Designing Out Crime Officer Heather Gurden says: “As a fellow gardener, I know that we can invest a considerable amount of time and money into our homes and gardens which could attract the eye of a thief.
“Gardens are often seen as a sanctuary and we need to care not only for the plants, but also invest in the security to look after them.
“As the nights draw in please remember to ensure that you have carried out all of those little maintenance jobs, like checking that shed locks and garden lights are working effectively. These are jobs that are often forgotten, but can be vital in keeping thieves away.
“Also, please remember not to leave bikes lying around in the garden, as they can be quickly and easily removed by a thief. If you are storing bikes in sheds and outhouses, ensure your bike is security marked, appropriately locked and only stored in a securely locked garage or shed.
“On our website you will see a list of precautions you can take to help secure your home and garden, but I would primarily recommend always locking doors, windows, sheds, outbuildings and gates when you leave your home”.
The key security features which make a garden both aesthetically pleasing, but safe, secure and sustainable include both physical security products and aspects of defensive planting:
Boundaries and access - the first line of defence against theft is to make sure property boundaries are secure, particularly to the rear, where people are often less watchful.
Fences - fences need to be of solid construction. It is recommended that fences to the rear of your property are 1.8m, and to the front no higher than 1.2m. Low-growing thorny shrubs at the base of fences, windows and drainpipes, will also give added protection.
Drives and pathways - gravel drives and paths make it very difficult for an intruder to approach a property quietly.
Gates - keep gates shut and locked whenever possible, especially those allowing access to the rear of the property. Fit two quality locks to a gate, top and bottom, and ensure hinges are securely fixed to gate posts so that the gate cannot be lifted off its hinges.
Lighting - install security lighting operated by a daylight sensor. At the rear of your property, because it is more secure and private, you can fit lighting that is activated by a movement sensor. Always remember to position lighting so not to be a nuisance to neighbours or a distraction for road users.
Mark your property - mark your bicycles and other valuable items using one of the various property marking schemes or use a permanent marker to endorse it with your post code and house number or name.
Plants, ornaments and containers - proprietary land anchors can be used to secure larger plants, garden furniture, containers and ornaments. Most are based on a permanent stake to which an item is chained or bolted.
Sheds and outbuildings - look after your sheds and outbuildings, making sure that both the lock and the hinges are securely fitted. Don’t make a burglar’s job easier by leaving gardening tools lying around – these are often used to force entry into houses. Think about using a strong lockable box or cage within the shed in which you can securely store garden tools.
CCTV - gardens with expensive items may be best protected by installation of closed circuit television (CCTV). Domestic systems can be linked to your television or video to view your garden. If you do decide to use CCTV it is important to read the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) advice on Domestic CCTV systems - guidance for people using CCTV. You can read that advice here: https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/domestic-cctv-systems-guidance-for-people-using-cctv/
Plants that fight back - clearly, another level of defence are the plants themselves. Thorny, spiky and prickly plants can deter even the most determined burglar and may be all the protection you need around your property. If you choose the right plants, they can look aesthetically pleasing too and add drama to your garden. Planted in groups or as focal points there’s a vast array of forms, textures, and sizes to choose from.
Details of security products which have been accredited by Secured by Design, the official police security initiative, after being tested and certified to a high standard and will reduce the opportunity for crime can be found here: https://www.securedbydesign.com/member-companies/accredited-product-search
Ten plants than can help protect a home:
Eryngium bourgatii 'Oxford Blue' & ‘Picos Blue’ (sea holly) - Eryngium can be annuals, biennials or perennials with simple or divided leaves, often spiny edged, and cone-like flower-heads often surrounded by an involucre of conspicuous spiny bracts. 'Jos Eijking' is another great Eryringium cultivar with intensely blue stems and flowers.
Rosa rugose (Japanese rose) - Rugosa roses are upright shrubs with very prickly stems bearing handsome, glossy, wrinkled foliage and fragrant, single or semi-double flowers in summer and autumn, often followed by large, tomato-like red hips.
Rubus cockburnianus (white-stemmed bramble) - Rubus is a thicket-forming shrub which has arching prickly shoots with a brilliant white bloom in winter. Pinnate leaves 20cm long with lance-shaped leaflets are dark green above and white-hairy beneath. Racemes of saucer-shaped purple flowers 1cm across are followed by rounded unpalatable black fruits.
Colletia paradoxa (anchor plant) - Colletia is a rounded deciduous shrub to 3m, with stems bearing many blue-green, flattened, triangular spines and small clusters of fragrant white flowers in autumn.
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) - Berberis can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs with spiny shoots bearing simple, often spine-toothed leaves, and small yellow or orange flowers in axillary clusters or racemes, followed by small berries.
Mahonia × media 'Lionel Fortescue' (Oregon grape) - Mahonia are evergreen shrubs with leathery, pinnate leaves which are often spine-toothed, and clustered racemes of sometimes fragrant yellow flowers, sometimes followed by black or purple berries.
Berkheya purpurea (purple berkheya) - Berkheya can be shrubs, or perennials, with spiny, pinnately divided leaves and yellow, purple or white daisy-like flower-heads in summer.
Pyracantha 'Orange Glow' (firethorn) - Pyracantha are evergreen shrubs or small trees, with spiny branches bearing simple leaves and corymbs of small white flowers followed by showy red, orange or yellow berries.
Ilex aquifolium (common holly) - Ilex can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs and trees with often spiny leaves, small white flowers (male and female usually on separate plants) and, on female plants, showy berries in autumn.
Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb) - Gunnera may be evergreen or herbaceous rhizomatous perennials, and range from small creeping plants to very large with huge leaves. The flowers are small, borne in narrow panicles or spikes and may be followed by small berry-like fruits.
Other plants include:
Juniperis horizontalis 'Wiltonii' - Creeping Juniper
Picea pungens 'Globosa' - Blue Spruce
Crataegus monogyna – common hawthorn
Prunus spinose – blackthorn
Ribes speciosum - Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry
Yucca aloifolia - Yucca
Hippophae - sea buckthorn
Chamaerops humilis - dwarf fan palm
Agave ovatifolia - oval-leaved agave