Stamp out green-fingered theft

Homegrown carrots.
Homegrown carrots.

We may not have rare plants in our gardens that are worth a fortune on the black market, but our ornaments, costly containers and mature trees would cost a lot to replace.

As reports that the increase in thefts of valuable rare plants is forcing the RHS garden at Wisley, Surrey and the Royal Botanic Gardens in both Kew and Edinburgh to assess security and install extra CCTV, now is the time to think of our own plots.

Erica carnea.

Erica carnea.

Each year, property owners lose millions of pounds worth of garden equipment, including mowers, furniture, expensive statuary and ornaments and even York stone paving slabs and turf.

Here are ways to minimise the risk of theft:


Fit trellis on top of a fence to improve security. Trellis is fairly fragile - it won’t support the weight of a human - and difficult to climb. However, anything higher than 2m and you’ll need planning permission.

Grow spiky hedges of holly, berberis, hawthorn or blackthorn. Most conifers will form a thick hedge that is difficult to get through. Thorny shrubs are most effective. Other thorny shrubs which will make a medium to large hedge up to 1.8m (6ft) include pyracantha and Rosa rugosa, while low-growing thorny shrubs can be positioned at the base of fences and below windows and drainpipes to deter intruders.


Gravel paths act as a deterrent as any visitor will scrunch up the driveway or gravelled approach in the back garden, alerting the home-owner.


You may not have rare plants, but you could have valuable mature specimens in pots. If you have bay trees framing your front door, invest in the heaviest pots you can to deter thieves.

Tough, deep roots are the best anchorage. So grow plants from small specimens to allow them time and space to mature and their strong, developed root system will make it very difficult for opportunist thieves to easily dig them up.