Boost safety: Security plantings protect homes
by Jacqueline Soule
Most people know that a well landscaped yard can add to a home's resale value, and many know that a good design can save money, but few folks know that you can also landscape for security.
The right landscape can reduce your chances of being the victim of burglary or home invasion. Landscape designers call this security planting.
Security plantings are more than a mass of spiny plants surrounding your home. In fact, security plantings may have no sharp edges!
A crime deterring landscape can be an aesthetically pleasing landscape that increases your home value and is low maintenance.
A home with a dense jungle of plants obscuring the door and windows is ideal for potential burglars. They can walk up to the house and break in without being observed by neighbors.
But don't abolish all plants, leaving a stark and empty entry. There would be no skulking in the shrubbery, but it would be deadly for resale value. The happy medium for the homeowner addresses these three things: access, personal safety, and visibility.
You need to reach all areas of your yard, if only for weeding and cleaning. Don't block off side yards, especially if that's where utility panels are located.
Keep potentially harmful plants, such as those with thorns, away from walkways and gates to avoid injuring yourself and your invited guests. Also, don't block windows. In case of fire, you may need to exit through them.
Thieves want to hide their activity. Thus, doors and windows easily visible from the street are more of a deterrent. You also need to easily see out the windows from inside, and too much vegetation makes that impossible. Landscape your yard with a few accent plants and use short hedges, low-growing perennials and groundcovers to complete the design.
If you already have a jungle, don't eliminate your plants, prune them. Limb up or thin out trees so you have a clear line of sight to the street. Prune any trees that may allow an intruder access to your home via the second floor or a skylight. Several feet of space between the roof and tree canopy is much safer.
Close to the house, site plants can use roof run-off. But since any type of moisture invites termites here in the Southwest, use foundation plantings that are dense, bushy, distasteful to termites and hard for burglars to stand in or fight their way through. Junipers are excellent for this purpose.
At the outer edges of the backyard, spiny plants discourage thieves from coming over the fence onto your property — but will capture their DNA if they make it over! There are a number of thorny, yet beautiful plants to choose from.
In Denver, consider grape holly (Mahonia), holly trees, juniper and roses. In Texas, consider thorny acacias, cacti, juniper, thorny palm trees, pyracantha, Texas ebony and yucca. In Phoenix, consider thorny acacia, agaves, bougainvillea, cacti, juniper, Mexican ebony, ocotillo, thorny palm trees and roses.
Think things through before you plant. With proper planning, you can grow a secure landscape that also allows you to enjoy it, safely.
Jacqueline Soule is a garden writer based in Tucson, Ariz. She has lived and gardened in almost every U.S. Department of Agriculture zone from 2A to 9B. Everywhere she's lived, she's striven to make her yard a haven of serenity.