Garden View: Landscaping for security


Specialized landscaping to ensure security is an old concept. Walled gardens of Islam were known for their safety. The swept gardens of the southern states provided barren ground where chickens could be kept under a watchful eye; through this system other animals, including snakes, could be seen from the porch or a window.

With careful consideration, plants and beds may provide protection and add value to homes. Making a few alterations to your housekeeping and landscaping can put off would-be intruders.

Keep in mind, the ideal target is a house surrounded by large hedges and shrubs to hamper visibility from the street and neighbors. Raised beds with large gravel or volcanic rock are hard to walk in and are noisy.

Be sure to keep ladders and equipment tucked away under lock and key.

Do not put trellises or trees in areas in which they could facilitate climbing to a second floor window. Stay away from large river rock, as these can become tools for breaking in.

Shrubbery within 4 feet of the house, doors or gates, and sidewalks should be no higher than 2 feet.

Plants near sidewalks, driveways, doors or gates should not exceed 4 feet in height to maintain visibility within the landscape. Four to 8 feet away from the house is an ideal distance to be kept.

Carefully placed lighting can also add to home security. Plants under windows should be maintained at a height below the window sill; the lower branches on trees should be 6 feet off the ground, so passing cars or neighbors can see into the area and residents can peer out the windows to enjoy the landscape.

Obvious, thorny plants to consider for security:

>> Shrub Roses, especially those that can be maintained at shorter heights.

>> Agarito, Berberis trifoliolata, usually grows to 5 or 6 feet, but may be maintained at a lower height and has sharp leaves.

>> Viciously pointed yuccas, like Spanish Dagger, are very sharp, as are many of the agaves.

>> Lemon and lime trees can provide lots of protection along fence lines.

>> Our native Acacia trees and other members of the Mimosa family can also provide a challenge to would-be intruders. While these cannot be planted too close to a house, trees like Texas Ebony, Pithecellobium ebano, can be trimmed as a thick, thorny shrub, along a tall fence.

>> Our many native species of cactus offer specimens in a wide range of heights with some that are perfect as dangerous ground covers.

For a list of further suggested plants, pick up a copy of the “Landscaping for Home Security” at the Growing Growers Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon today. The market is located at Firemen’s Park, on the corner of 1st Street and Business 83 in McAllen.

I will be providing a slide presentation on “Planting for Security” from noon to 1 p.m. at the Home and Garden Show on Sunday at the McAllen Convention Center.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or contact her at