Note: This section is now in the archives and the advice service has finished but feel welcome to look over these previously posted articles.
An important aspect of garden design, which is often overlooked, is the placing of certain plants or features to make the house and garden more secure. Obviously first on the list is a sturdy fence around the boundary, but this can be supplemented in a number of other ways to ensure any unwanted visitors are kept out.
By planting thorny or spiky plants along a vulnerable section of fence, you will help to discourage any potential intruders.
- Pyracantha (firethorn) is a very prickly evergreen shrub with a mass of orange or yellow berries in autumn – ideal for training as a wall shrub. Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ is an especially attractive cultivar. Berberis and Ilex (holly) are equally prickly customers!
- An informal hedge of good old-fashioned roses not only looks and smells fantastic but the thorns are lethal. The rugosa roses are especially well suited to hedging -they’re particularly thorny and have the advantage of attractive rosehips in autumn.
- A bed of Cacti or large spiky agaves, closely planted will certainly deter most potential trespassers.
- A dense hedge of bamboo will be a great barrier, but be careful of its invasive roots. By planting in the ground within a large container (such as a plastic barrel) the roots can be kept in check – just make sure there are adequate drainage holes.
- Hippophae rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn), another prickly hedging shrub, is great for coastal gardens as it’s very tolerant of salt wind.
- Make sure any planting in the front garden is no more than 1 metre in height – you don’t want to provide the burglar with anything to hide behind.
Security can also be increased by having mixed shrub and flower borders beneath the windows of the house. Make the beds at least 1m in depth (more if possible) and try to include at least one thorny or spiky leafed shrub nearest to the window.
Certain types of hard landscaping material and other features and structures within the garden will help to increase security.
- For paths and driveways choose a material which is noisy underfoot such as gravel.
- Mulch borders next to a boundary fence with a generous layer of scoria – it makes a great crunchy sound when walked on.
- A strip of wooden trellis along the top of the fence will deter most intruders. Visually it looks difficult to climb over safely, and if anyone attempts it they’ll risk breaking it – making more noise.
- A water feature can also act as an effective deterrent – a wildlife pond edged with Gunnera manicata (Large and abrasive foliage) would be an imposing barrier, or even a smaller, raised pool near a window would discourage access.
- Although expensive, vertical metal railings are difficult to scale. They also have the advantage of being see-through – this is particularly useful in a front garden where any intruder may be spotted by a passer-by. Consider constructing your own variation from reclaimed copper tubing – it weathers to a wonderful verdigris finish.
- Locked gates limit access, but be aware that solid wooden gates are easier to climb over. Wrought iron or metal-railed gates are harder to negotiate, and again, any intruder can be seen through them.
- Consider installing solar lighting in particularly dark corners of the garden and nearer the house opt for movement activated security lighting – handy too when you’re looking for the front door key!
Although it is important to make your house and garden secure, it is perfectly possible to do it in a way that is also attractive. Combine some of these security measures as an intrinsic part of your overall design, rather than imposing them on the garden as an afterthought, and only the potential burglar will appreciate just how uninviting your garden looks!