Plant prickly things to thwart thieves

Sadly, this rural area of north Wales is not immune to the spate of heating oil thefts that seems to be afflicting the UK at the moment.

Theft of any kind is a horrible experience. Theft of oil can be a particularly nasty, dirty and smelly thing: there will almost always be an oil spill to deal with, not just a clean theft.

There are lots of thing you can do to help secure the tank itself, but it is also worth thinking of making your garden more secure by using plants. It is much more difficult to climb over or through a hedge than it is a wall or fence. Making that hedge prickly will make it even more tricky for would-be thieves to get into, or out of, your garden.

Traditional “agricultural” type hedging, based on hawthorn and blackthorn (sloe), is well suited to rural gardens. It has the added advantage of being cheap and quick to establish. The thorn bushes can be mixed with all kinds of other hedging – native or exotic species – or they can be planted as a single or two species hedge. Berberis is a good choice for a more ornamental setting.

Another technique is to plant a regular (non-prickly) hedge with the hedging species of your choice and then plant prickly low growing perennials in front of it. I particularly like butchers broom (Ruscus aceulaetus), which makes an incredibly tough thicket to tangle ankles in.

Butchers Broom - the leaves are incredibly tough and spiky, although they don't look it.
Butchers Broom – the leaves are incredibly tough and spiky, although they don’t look it.

Letting climbers roam through the hedge will also make it more difficult for a would be thief to penetrate – rambling roses and honeysuckles establish quickly and are good for insects.

You could even use a hedge of fruit – gooseberries would be my first choice for that as I always get shredded pruning them!

If you already have walls or fences around your garden, consider planting prickly plants and climbers in front of them.

Whether you go for prickly or smooth, plants can definitely enhance the appearance of your garden as well as improving your security.

I was surprised (and pleased) to find this useful leaflet produced by Hertfordshire Constabulary and Herts County Council that provides more ideas and advice on securing your boundaries, focusing on natural materials.

If you do choose to plant a prickly hedge, take extra care when cutting it and be especially thorough in clearing up the prunings to make sure they don’t end up in somebody’s foot (although that’s fine if it’s the thief’s foot, obviously).

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