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BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)<br />
Pic: LauraDale/BNPS<br />
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The Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, at the site of a missing Tasman Flax Lily.<br />
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The increase in thefts of rare and unusual plants is forcing botanical gardens to take extreme measures to keep green-fingered thieves at bay.<br />
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Garden staff have had to install security cameras and patrol their plants to ensure people armed with rucksacks and hidden gardening tools don't dig them up.<br />
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Between 10 to 15 exotic plants have been stolen from the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey in Hampshire this year and Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens in Dorset has seen about a dozen "choice" plants disappear.<br />
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At Harold Hillier Gardens they suspect most of the thefts have been carried out at night, but at Abbotsbury brazen thieves have been digging plants up at the root in daylight when members of the public could walk past at any minute.<br />
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Barry Clarke, a botanist at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens for 12 years, said the problems with theft seem to have got much worse in the last five years.<br />
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With 180 acres and only 15 garden staff looking after 42,000 plants, they just can't watch every part of the garden and people are making off with rare and expensive plants that are almost impossible to replace.<br />
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Expensive peonies, specialist snowdrops and mahonias so rare they haven't been named yet were among the plants taken and staff have resorted to installing motion cameras to catch the culprits.