Most people know to guard against thieves looking for opportunities to break in to their homes, and that they have designs on goods such as laptops; tablets; jewellery and mobile phones. Sheds and valuable garden tools are also a target. But, have you ever stopped to consider that, if you have a garden, your plants could be at risk of theft?
Thieves are becoming green fingered as well as light-fingered, and gardeners are paying the price as their plants; pots; ornaments and even hedges disappear. A recent Home Office study found that thieves are actually more likely to steal garden furniture (9.6 per cent of thefts) than credit or debit cards (8.2 per cent).
The Crime Prevention Website says plants in pots such as bays; Japanese maples; hollies; palms and bonsai are popular targets while specimen shrubs and established trees are also being dug up and removed. Even big climbers like Wisteria have been targeted, with a spate of thefts from homes in Hampstead last year.
Hanging baskets and statues also frequently disappear and - believe it or not - newly-laid turf has been rolled up, and shipped out of the owners' gardens. Even fish in ponds (especially costly koi carp) have been stolen.
So, what's the best way to avoid becoming a victim?
- Think about what you place in the front garden
Those two bay trees framing your front door might look stylish, but they are easy prey for crooks. Newly-planted trees and shrubs are most often targeted, so take labels off new plants, and clear earth and any other signs of planting. You can get plant anchors for particularly valuable plants (you can even microchip them!) and locking brackets for your hanging baskets.
- Install a gravel drive or path
You'll be able to hear people approaching.
- Fix trellis on top of your fencing
It'll make it much more difficult to scale.
- Avoid planting tall hedging by the gate or front border of your house
This can provide great cover for thieves.
- Install lighting with movement sensors
These are still a great way to deter unwanted guests after dark.
And, in the battle against the garden burglar, it's worth remembering that plants can also deter them. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends planting thorny spiky hedges to stop burglars in their tracks. They suggest using the following:
- Berberis × stenophylla
- Crataegus monogyna(common hawthorn)
- Ilex aquifolium(holly)
- Rosa rugosa
- Prunus spinosa(blackthorn)
Finally, make sure that if your garden's important to you, you're adequately insured against theft. Some home insuranceproducts won't cover your garden, so make sure you're covered.