I live in a house on a corner. One of the benefi ts of corner house-dwelling is that there is a lot of extra neutral ground for me to garden on. One of the downsides of corner house-dwelling is that I have fi ve large windows practically on the sidewalk. Sometimes if a heavy walker is out for an evening stroll with the dog, it sounds like both human and dog are inside my house. Luckily, there is a small strip of earth between the house and the sidewalk that I have, naturally, taken over for laissez-farming purposes. It is really small (about 18” wide), but it runs the whole length of the house. In this partially sunny spot near heavy foot and dog traffi c, I have mostly planted low-maintenance, low-lying plants, with the occasional edible snuck in, like artichokes or lemongrass. But underneath the windows, just for an extra security measure that looks more pleasant than iron bars, I’ve snuck in some plants that are seriously intimidating to possible intruders because of their spiky attributes.
Following are some of my favorite plants for security gardening. Some are fruiting trees, and some are just fl owering, but they all deter both people and animals from coming too close.
Bougainvillea is a showy fl owering shrub from South America that is well-suited to our climate. It grows fast, but can be somewhat unruly, so be sure to keep on top of pruning it before the plant becomes a thorny monster. But, if it is managed, it can be planted under windows and maintained as a shrub or hedge in sunny, well-draining spots.
They also make good plants to train along a fence.
I have one that blooms in bright magenta pink.
It is almost three years old and seems to bloom profusely nearly all year, as long as the winter is mild. For such a striking plant, it has incredibly nasty thorns about an inch-and-a-half long. Savannah holly is a common landscape tree in the South that adapts well to pruning. The trees are commonly planted close together around the perimeter of yards as a screen or hedge. The dwarf Savannah holly is a great under-the-window plant that grows to be a smaller, bushier version of the tree.
Both dwarf and standard Savannah hollies are densely evergreen plants with sharp barbs on the leaves. During the winter and early spring, they have distinctive bright red berries that attract entertaining fl ocks of cedar waxwing birds.
Moving on to fruiting security plants, some of the smaller citrus trees have wicked thorns, and produce prolifi c amounts of fruit once established. Dwarf Meyer lemon trees can be pruned to stay under a sunny window, but they are also great along a fence to keep anyone from climbing over it.
Eureka lemons are an interesting variety, with a strain that produces a pink lemon and a variegated strain with green-and-white mottled leaves. The lemons themselves have a thicker rind than Meyer lemons, but both varieties share the thorny and easily trained or pruned characteristics of a plant that can provide both security and fruit in the landscape.
Lime trees also make a good fruiting security plant. Persian limes and Key limes are among the least cold-hardy of all the citrus, so being planted in a sunny spot near the house where they can absorb some of the house’s heat can be very benefi cial. They both have thorns, but the Persian lime’s are more intense. My Persian lime tree produces an abundance of limes in late August before any other citrus is available, has grown fast, and smells amazing when it’s covered in fl owers in springtime. If planted near the house, lime trees will have to be pruned to the desired shape, but make a prohibitive thorny screen along a fence line.
Last, I view the pomegranate tree I planted as an experiment. It is growing slowly underneath one of my sidewalk windows. It has milder thorns than any of the other trees/plants mentioned above, but it still has thorns, and it will always stay a shrub-size/small tree, so it won’t need the kind of yearly pruning that the others will in certain locations. The pomegranate has so far been low-maintenance, but the fruit is still an experiment since it hasn’t produced any yet. I am a tough landlord for the plants I plant—I expect them to pay me by serving the multiple purposes of looking interesting, hopefully producing fruit if intended to, and in this case, providing an extra feeling of security.
All of the plants mentioned above can be found at: Banting Nursery in Bridge City, bantingnursery.com, or Harold’s Plants in the Bywater, facebook.com/HaroldsPlants.