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ARTICLE: Smart Landscaping to Enhance Your Garden’s Security

Landscaping can significantly reinforce your property, reducing the risk of burglary and theft of precious garden items. But how do home-owners strike a balance between beautiful garden aesthetics and security? Here, with the help of RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal winner, Sue Hayward, we look at the latest trends in defensive gardening.

Whilst the installation of home security systems is of course a priority in preventing burglaries, the strategic selection of plants, trees and shrubs, as well as the use of fences and gravelled walkways in the garden, play an important role in both intimidating and warding off potential intruders.

Today, preventing theft from both inside and outside your home is equally essential. Shockingly, theft from UK gardens has risen by nearly a quarter (23%) since 2017, with an extra 112,000 offences occurring. Gardens are an extension of our homes – an extra room to be enjoyed with attractive, high worth items such as seating, decorations, ornaments and planters in place. Outhouses, barns and sizeable sheds are also an important place for storage and can’t be ignored when it comes to security options.

“Landscaping for security should be at the forefront of the mind when looking at garden design,” says East Midlands based garden designer Sue Hayward, winner of RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal 2019 for the High Maintenance Garden for Motor Neurone Disease Association. “It’s about choosing the right plants, bedding and materials to help make you feel safe, and understanding how to secure valuable and treasured items in the garden. Just a few subtle adjustments can make a tangible difference to security inside and outside the home.”

She continues, “Security doesn’t have to be ugly and unattractive. Many of the plants and methods I recommend using are also very attractive and fit alongside the wider garden design.”


First impressions count

Limiting vision and access between front and back gardens is a priority, according to Sue. “Gardens must have a secured gate at the side so that potential intruders are unable to see into the back of the house. This should be the same height as a fence and solid so difficult to climb and grasp onto.”

“The front of the house should also be open,” she continues. “Limit the number of trees and bushes which can obscure your home but maintain an element of privacy with small trees or low-level bushes to enclose front windows,” Sue suggests. “For greenery, use big pots outside your front door instead, but the bigger and heavier the better to hinder lifting by potential thieves. Place bricks in the base of terracotta pots and use chunky shrubs such as vibernum tinus to add weight – a lovely evergreen which always has a flower.”

“Gravel can be used further away from the house to alert owners to unwanted visitors approaching, lining a paved path around the house. Avoid using gravel too close to the house though so it doesn’t get walked into the home.”


Securing perimeter borders

Consider carefully how to make access difficult across your perimeter borders using dense planting. A long-term solution, hedges make an excellent outdoor defence. Thick and dense, entry over or through hedges is difficult, particularly when ‘doubled up’ with a fence behind. “Seamless fences offer additional security – hinged and locked on the inside so as not to be seen externally, these can also be covered with planting to further camouflage access,” Sue adds. “Think about adding a pretty trellis on top with a spiky rambling rose. Harder to get over, a trellis is more likely to collapse if jumped.”

Boxwood hedges provide a more formal ‘look and feel’ which can also be easily shaped into a design to appeal. Or try Yew or Holly for a dense feel. Similarly, privet hedges are easy to prune and maintain with a lovely white flower in Spring. Also easy to prune, Juniper is one of the best types of shrubs to use in a hedge format and likes being frequently trimmed. “Alternatively try Mahonia” suggests Sue, “a really prickly hedge and so hard to climb through, but offering an on-trend architectural design and a mass of yellow flowers.”

Hawthorn is another option – growing up to 15m, this shrub with its hard and spiky branches is tricky to break through. “Hawthorn hedges would also compliment a beautiful wildlife area” says Sue. “Encourage brambles and nettles to grow, attracting butterflies and wildlife but also doubling up as security.”

Always remember there are restrictions placed on how high hedges can grow. Anything over 2 metres and your neighbours can ask for a hedge to be trimmed.


A prickly landing

Make it difficult for potential intruders to either gain access or leave your property via ground-floor windows. Consider adding beds underneath windows and growing plants which have tough, sharp and prickly branches and act as a shield (ideal for making landings out of windows painful, difficult and off-putting). Suitable contenders include: Berberis Darwinii (prickly spines on the shoots but beautiful orange flowers); Roses (spikes across the branches); Pyracantha (lovely berries and flowers); Blackthorn (with pointed spur shoots)


Allowing in light

When it comes to trees, think carefully. Ideal trees provide privacy but are less dense, allowing in light versus creating dark and shady corners for intruders to hide. Candidates include – birch, aspen, spruces and willow.


Ensure that valuable garden items are secure

The interior meets exterior trend continues to grow. However, the latest furniture, rugs, planters, sofas and water features for example, all appeal to potential thieves. But unlike household goods, many of us forget to secure these valuables.

Movement detectors and electronic tags can be added to valuable items. Microchips can be added into statues. Think about engraving items with a postcode or cementing valuable planters into the ground. Consider choosing heavy cast iron furniture or teak. And where possible, store goods away when not in use – the trusty shed now comes in stylish designs and can be fitted with high security padlocks.

“Despite the availability of sheds in lovely colours, I advise my clients to invest in a black shed, with no windows, so that it disappears into the background and is hard to see to the eye of potential intruders. Alternatively, place a shed at the side of the house, out of eye line, and wire it up to the house security system. Position sensor lighting to shine directly onto the area around the shed,” says Sue. “Think about positioning your furniture or ornaments hidden inside foliage, a contemporary design but also harder for thieves to find.”

Even trusty garden tools are a target nowadays. Although low value items, prevent theft by customising with your name or postcode. Doing so is a deterrent and makes items harder to sell.


Making sure you’re covered

Whilst your household items will of course be covered under household contents insurance, when it comes to garden valuables, make sure you have the right insurance. Valuable items which can’t be locked away, such as furniture or planters, may not be included in your policy. Speak to Russell Scanlan to find out how to extend your policy today.

“Defensive gardening isn’t about creating a fort around your home” Sue explains. “It’s about being aware of your surroundings and making sensitive choices to enhance your security. Making the most likely targets of theft more secure and making your garden less attractive to thieves, you can relax with peace of mind.”


Sue Hayward Garden Designs offers a professional garden design, plant sourcing and supply service for all sizes of property. Sue has designed three show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, attaining two Gold Medals. Sue also designed and built a “Beautiful Border” at the BBC Gardeners World Live achieving Gold. Visit www.suehayward.co.uk for more information or contact Sue on 07966 521 376 or sue@suehayward.co.uk.

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