Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
June, 2007
Regional Report

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A dense hedge of prickly rugosa roses will help deter trespassers with an eye on your gardening treasures.

Flower Robbers

One of our favorite family stories stars my sister who, when she was about four, proudly presented my mother with a fistful of pansies. She said she found them growing under her bed. On further questioning, she said they were growing in the sandbox. Eventually the truth came out: she had "borrowed" them from our next-door neighbor's yard. Some life lessons followed -- about "borrowing" and telling the truth. If only all flower thefts were this innocent. Sadly, plants have reached the status of a valuable commodity that's worth stealing. Gardens public and private are being targeted, and the problem is widespread.

Valuable cacti are rustled in the Southwest, wild orchids are poached from Florida state parks, newly planted trees and shrubs are disappearing from roadside plantings and new home sites. Thieves are also taking statuary, tools, and even boulders. Window boxes full of flowers are there one day, gone the next. The National Parks Conservation Association has a "Ten Most Endangered National Parks" list of those most at risk of losing plant material. The Association of British Insurers estimates that by the end of a typical summer, one in seven British gardens will have been robbed of plants.

In my neighborhood we've had to be alert to burglaries of our homes but as of yet no one has lost any valuable plants or tillers. But maybe it's only a matter of time. I fence my garden to keep out the 4-legged critters but would certainly not want to be faced with fencing my entire yard to prevent the 2-legged thieves from ripping out my hydrangeas or blue spruces. A 6-foot-high fence may not keep out someone who's determined, but it can be a deterrent. Here are some other tips for anyone in the unfortunate position of having to protect their yard:

1. Plant a dense boundary of thorny shrubs in places where the yard and garden are accessible from public walkways and roads.

2. Light the garden. Install motion-sensing floodlights or lights that come on at dusk at entrances to the garden, near valuable plants and ornaments, and in dark corners. Attractive garden lighting that highlights special plants at night is a deterrent, too.

3. Build or install a garden shed to house expensive equipment, such as lawn mowers, tillers, etc. Put away all tools and equipment at night and lock the door.

4. Lock barbecue grills and garden equipment left outside with steel cables attached to a heavy or immovable object.

5. On furniture and valuable pottery and statuary, use vibration sensors that sound an alarm when the object is moved.

7. Check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it covers garden equipment and valuable plants, and add a rider if appropriate.

8. Make a list of the valuable items (including receipts if possible) and take photos of them to keep for your records in case of theft.

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