Beware of the hedge!

Beware of the hedge!Hedging can be great way of screening you from the world but it also has its disadvantages because while it may shield you from prying eyes it also shields your house – making it a prime target for the unwanted eyes of burglars.

I witnessed this first hand while gardening at a house in SW11. I had to move my car because of the one hour parking enforcement rules during the morning which some London boroughs operate in normally well off areas to deter commuters from parking all day in streets adjacent to the railway stations.

However, on this occasion it was a fortunate distraction because as I walked back from having had to park my car what seemed like miles away in a rare pay and display street I noticed a man acting strangely. He was standing at the window of the property next to the one I was working at and a window looked as though it was broken.

As I looked at the man more he became increasingly panicky. I asked if everything was OK? He then asked if I lived at the house and calmly explained that he had come upon two white teenage boys trying to get in to the house.

Henry was extremely plausible and confidently explained what had happened reeling off his address and phone number (none of which was real). Of course he didn’t want to hang around and there really wasn’t much I could do to detain him so he left saying he was happy to help….. ‘Anything for the community’

Henry whose real name turned out to be Mr Burglar was just like you or me. He was a nice affable chap, but had no doubt done this kind of thing on numerous occasions before and got away with it. He was an opportunist but fortunately for the owners of this particular house had picked the right or wrong moment to strike.

Ironically, the house had an alarm but what I didn’t realise is that alarms don’t necessarily go off when a window is smashed only when the burglar is inside and activates the sensory device.

The long and short of it is the police advised the home owner – who was extremely relieved and appreciative that the burglar hadn’t got into her home – that the best way to deter a burglar is to lessen their chances by cutting the hedge lower.

As a consequence I did exactly the same myself as I realised that the hedge in front of the new house that I had just moved in to posed a similar threat. The unshapely Choisya ternata AGM (Mexican orange blossom) had been allowed to grow to 2 metres high and would have provided great cover for a burglar.

Fortunately this is my least favourite shrub (although I do like other species such as the Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’) so it wasn’t too much of a hardship to get rid of it.

My biggest problem with this shrub is how do you prune it without making it look ridiculous. I have never come across one I have found easy to prune and I challenge anyone to do so.

However, it did make me think about hedging and I found myself looking at front gardens a lot more than I had before. I was surprised about the usage of some shrubs I hadn’t ever considered. For instance the Pyracantha or Firethorn as it is commonly known, which acts as a great screen because it is a particularly thorny plant, makes for an excellent wall shrub.

As an evergreen it provides all year round green foliage but the red or orange berries depending on the variety chosen are amazing – I prefer the red.

There are some really phenomenal examples of them being used as winter wall climbers. What it also shows is how you can prune this shrub to make it look so much more than the wild prickly style I normally encounter when it attacks me in mixed borders!

Check out the difference between the Choisya ternata AGM (Mexican orange blossom) and the Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’ particularly the leaf shape

Choisya ternata AGM: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=427

Choisya x dewitteana ‘Aztec Pearl’: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Harlow-Carr/About-Harlow-Carr/Plant-of-the-month/May/Choisya-x-dewitteana–Aztec-Pearl-

Plant information about the Pyracantha: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=431