Dealing with Vandalism & Theft

Dear LFGN,

Please tell the Network about our experiences with vandalism and theft of trees and shrubs:
The New Southgate Millennium Green is one of 245 volunteer-run greenspaces throughout England, set up to celebrate the Turn of the Millennium in 2000.  We are a small park in an urban area and we had theft and vandalism of our trees and shrubs right from the start.  Of ten Golden Ash trees planted in 2000, only three were left three years later, the rest all vandalised repeatedly until they died.  In the first year, many of our newly planted small shrubs were stolen and I know that is a familiar story, especially in urban parks.  SO we set out to change things and it DOES make a difference.
1.  In stead of planting things in public view, we tend to be more discrete, planting during the week, when there is no-one around.  This seems a shame, but at a public event we had a Yew Tree stolen before it was even planted!  At one public event, all the flowers we planted when the local children were there were pulled up and thrown around later, all those we planted without the children seeing us were left alone.
2.  We try to make the shrubs and trees look as if they have always been there, so we ignore standard practice-  all the soil we dig up goes on a sheet or in a barrow, so you don’t get the usual planting residue afterwards; instead of removing a circle of turf, we cut a cross in the turf, peal it back, dig and plant, then put the turf back.  We even pile up leaves or cut grass around all the neighbouring trees so they all look the same.  We REMOVE ALL LABELS, so they don’t look new and are less useful to plant or sell on eBay.
The only plants we have had stolen in 15 years are the shrubs planted by a contractor last year, who left the labels on.

Labels left on…​                                                                                                                Plants gone.
3.  We stake ALL trees and shrubs, even a bamboo stake is much better than nothing.  We discovered that some dog owners actually bend a young tree down and offer it to a dog to maul!  Sometimes we even use recently cut branches  to stake with the trees, so it is not so obvious which is which when the vandals are snapping them.  We maintain our stakes for years, sometimes permanently, if the tree is at risk of being snapped to death.
4.  Every time a major branch is snapped, but not right off, we ALWAYS repair it with duck tape and usually a splint on either side- This has ALWAYS worked!  Yes, really.  Apple Trees, Plum trees, Cherry trees, the whole top of a Ginkgo tree…  Don’t despair, go and repair!
​Broken Ginkgo​                                Fixed Ginkgo                                 Recovering Ginkgo
5.  We even allowed the rootstock to grow up around one of our much-attacked Golden Ash to support it and reduce the target.  Now 18 years later we are slowly raising the crown on the rootstock to allow the Golden Ash to develop.
6.  After a battle for weeks with someone who repeatedly pulled up a pair of Cotoneaster, we went mad and replanted them double staked them, wrapped them in chicken wire and planted lots of stinging nettles around them.  We won.  The Cotoneasters are lovely and the stinging nettles are all gone now!
If anyone would like to see these and any other special techniques we have developed, you can visit us on our Green- London N11 1SY on the 1st Saturday of the Month all year round and find us on Facebook 🙂
Andrew Irvine
           Project Manager
New Southgate Millennium Green
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One thought on “Dealing with Vandalism & Theft”

  1. That’s really helpful. We are a friends group in a Gardens in central London and also suffer from vandalism of newly planted trees. Thank you for the tips.

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