Green-fingered thievery in full bloom
Our gardens are often a sanctuary of colour and calm, and the result of sweat, toil and no small expense. However, everything is not rosy in the gardens of Britain, with the revelation that one in every five (20 per cent) gardens have been pilfered by green-fingered thieves in the last 12 months alone.
The research, conducted by MORE TH>N Home Insurance, found that from Kent to Cumbria, Brits are seeing their hanging baskets swiped, flower-beds uprooted, towering topiaries replaced by damp outlines and voids left where precious plants once stood proud. What's more, according to almost a quarter of those surveyed (23 per cent) it's a problem that's getting worse every year.
From stunning rose standards to beautiful bay trees, gardens are rich-pickings for burglars in the know, who are taking £72.21 worth of horticultural hauls with each raid - proving that money does grow on trees.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the front of the house that is most often targeted, with 70 per cent of respondents claiming to have had pot plants and trees swiped from right outside their front doors. And as soon as these objects have been uprooted they are used to decorate the thieves' own gardens, sold on to dealers or offloaded at car boot sales.
Additionally, it is the valuable plant specimens and carefully cultivated shrubs that are the objects of thieves' affections, as illustrated by MORE TH>N in the top 10 list of the most stolen horticultural items in Britain today:
Top 10 most stolen plants and trees
1. Hanging baskets
2. Bay trees
3. Rose standards
4. Olive trees
5. Rare lilies
7. Miniature palm trees
8. Magnolia trees
9. Daphne shrubs
Looking across the regions, it is not ‘The Garden of England' where green-fingered thievery is in full bloom, but the North East - with 29 per cent of plant theft victims living in the area. Following closely behind is the North West (25 per cent) and East Anglia (24 per cent), while garden-proud homeowners in the East Midlands can sleep easy at night knowing their region has the lowest rate of plant theft in the country (13 per cent).
According to Janet Connor, Managing Director for MORE TH>N: "As we've seen from recent incidents of lead being stolen from roofs, thieves are casting their nets ever wider in the search for objects to steal. And as this research unfortunately shows, garden plants and trees are now firmly on the list.
"Cultivating a beautiful garden is by no means a cheap endeavour, with many items, such as Bay trees, commanding price tags of £60 or more. But all the hard work and money spent on creating a lovely outdoor space can be ruined overnight if the garden is an easy target for thieves."
In light of the findings, MORE TH>N has collaborated with gardening expert and broadcaster Bob Flowerdew to offer a series of handy hints and tips and help guard the gardens of Great Britain.
Bob's top tips to secure your plants and trees:
1. ‘This plant belongs to...' - The simplest deterrent is to mark all of your plants with your postcode. Use an indelible marker pen and boldly write your postcode all over plant labels (which can be concealed within the roots or the leaves before planting) containers, vases, urns and tubs.
2. Chain it up! - Hanging baskets are by far the easiest target. Make their support fixing secure and difficult to undo by using wire, small bolts or even an unobtrusive lock and chain. When it comes to securing plants, a weatherproof bicycle lock attached to the containers will make life difficult for any thief. And for larger tubs and planters, a short chain or cable bolted to the container and fixed to a concreted bolt will make it impossible to remove the plants intact.
3. Tug of war - Create bigger holes for your plants and carefully place layers of plastic netting within the roots as you plant them. This will make it infernally difficult to either dig or pull up!
4. Go large - Large, heavy containers are more difficult to steal than smaller ones. Choose bigger planting containers and for the largest add extra weight with broken paving slabs and heavier soil-based compost.
5. Be a prickly customer - Thorny and prickly plants are harder to remove and can act as a barrier to other plants. Position thorny and spiny plants and shrubs (such as Berberis, Yuccas, Briars, and Brambles) around the edges of containers, at vulnerable access points, such as low walls and fences, and around the base or up through the middle of valuable specimens.
6. Take a picture - A photo of a specimen or even of bedding will aid both identification and the claim.