Defensive Landscaping – Worth the Effort

Nothing says “break-in” like a home that looks like it’s got something to hide. That’s why floodlights and high fences can be counterproductive in a neighborhood community. It’s like having an advertisement that says, “Good Stuff Here, Come And Get It!” Sometimes the best defenses are the ones that don’t look like defences.

The layout of your garden contributes to the likelihood of your being victimized by burglars or intruders. Just making it look difficult to traverse might be all the subliminal pressure you have to exert.

Most attacks happen at night. So trees, shrubs and bushes should always be kept trimmed so that intruders do not have places to hide in the dark. Ideally, there should be no dim, shadowy areas large enough to conceal a person in your yard. Plan landscaping and outdoor lighting schemes with this in mind.

Also, remember that intruders look for easy ways to get into a house or garden. By planning a few simple precautions into the design of your yard, you can reduce the risk of being robbed and make your home and garden more secure. One of the best ways to keep thieves out is to use nature’s own defense mechanisms to stop intruders. A barrier made of a winding, prickly, thorny hedge may be all the protection you need around your property. Maybe have a slightly narrowed path. It’s asubtle discouragement.

Here are some suggestions for plants to use in the defense of your home.

Warning: The plants mentioned are identified by their correct botanical name, but they thrive in varying climates. Ask for assistance at your local garden store or wherever you purchase your plants and landscaping materials. Also, this list is tailored for growing areas with substantial yearly rainfall; desert regions have prickly plants en mass and gardeners should have little trouble locating them.

Creeping Juniper Juniperis horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ – Called ‘Blue Rug’ because it looks like a flattened blue carpet when grown as groundcover. Creeping juniper has thorny stems and foliage.

Blue Spruce Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ – These trees grow slowly and prefer moist, rich soil. They have rigid branches and thick, blue, spiky needles.

Common Holly Ilex agulfolium – Holly is a big evergreen shrub with dark green spiked leaves. Grows well in most soil types.

Giant Rhubarb Gunnera manicata – This plant features huge leaves on erect stems and abrasive foliage. Grows well by water.

Golden Bamboo Phyllostachys aurea – This variety of graceful, hardy bamboo forms thick clumps. Golden bamboo is less invasive than other bamboos.

Chinese Jujube Zizyphus sativa – This is a medium sized tree with spiny branches. The leaves are a glossy bright green and it bears clusters of tiny yellow flowers.

Firethorn Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ – The firethorn produces white flowers in early summer, with brilliant orange-red berries. The have thorny stems and can grow to 15ft. Great for impenetrable hedging.

Shrub Rose Rosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’ – Pretty ground cover with pale pink flowers and very thorny stems. Growing season is May to September.

Pencil Christmas Tree Picea abias ‘Cupressina’ – Medium-sized tree with a nice-looking shape and dense, spiky branches. Avoid dry chalky soils.

Juniper Juniperus x media ‘Old Gold’ – The juniper is an evergreen with golden-tipped, prickly foliage. It only grows to 2ft, but can spread to 6ft. Another good ground cover. (Pictured)

Purple Berberis Berberis thunbergil ‘Atropurpurea’ – A medium-sized deciduous tree with deep purple foliage and thorny stems. Plant it in any soil and in a sunny position.

Mountain Pine Pinus mugo ‘Mughus’ – These are dense and bushy. Mountain pines are very hardy, large shrubs or small trees, with long sharp needles.

Blue Pine Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ – Blue pines are small to medium-sized trees with spiky needled stems and bright blue leaves. They like moist, rich soil.

Oleaster Elaeagnus angustifolia – Small deciduous trees that grow to 15-20ft high. They have smooth, dark brown branches that often bear spines and narrow, light green leaves that are silvery on the undersides. Greenish flowers and edible, olive-shaped, yellowish fruits, which are sweet but mealy. Sturdy, wind resistant and capable of growing in poor, dry sites, Oleaster is useful in windbreak hedges.

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa – The blackthorn, also called Sloe, is a spiny shrub. Usually grows less than 12ft tall and has numerous, small leaves. Its dense growth makes it suitable for hedges. Blackthorns have white flowers and bluish-black fruit which is used to flavor sloe gin.

Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry Ribes speciosum – This spiny fruit bush produces greenish to greenish-pink flowers in clusters of twos or threes. Extremely hardy, it thrives in moist, heavy clay soil and in cool, humid climates.

The following thorny plants may also be considered:

Aralia, Chaenomeles, Colletia, Crataegus (including hawthorn/may), Hippophae (sea buckthorn), Maclura, Mahonia, Oplopanax, Osmanthus, Poncirus, Rhamnus, Rosa (climbing & shrub roses), Rubus (bramble), Smilax, Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum).

The cultivating of thorny, spiny hedges and trees will take some time and exertion, but the end result justifies the effort. These plants should deter even the most determined burglar – and most animals.

Be careful; hedges and shrubs in the front garden should be kept to a height of no more than three feet in order to avoid giving a burglar a hiding place. A low fence or one which can be seen through lets you and your neighbors see if something is out of place or unusual, like a stranger in your garden. A high fence that can’t be seen through might be good protection from snoops but once a burglar is behind it, they’re hidden from view and they can go about their business without being seen. Tall thick bushes and fences also negate the usefulness of even the best lighting plans. If no one can see through your hedge or fence, illumination will only give a thief more time.


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