As drug raid targets go, they were hardly the usual suspects.
Chris and Anne Vincent, a respectable couple in their late fifties, answered the door of their village home to find police demanding access to their garden.
Neighbours had reported how streams of local teenagers had been knocking on the couple’s door asking to buy marijuana.
And police dogs had picked up the waft of cannabis coming from the Vincents’ flower bed in the Warwickshire village of Bidford-on-Avon.
Nonplussed, the couple allowed the drug squad into their detached, four-bedroom home – and the mystery was solved.
The source of the smell was not marijuana plants but a common evergreen creeper, moss phlox.
Mrs Vincent, 57, a cashier with the Nationwide, had been cultivating the flowering plant for years.
Her 58-year-old husband, a shopkeeper, said: ‘My wife’s a keen gardener. When we bought the house, the plant was already there – but then it grew and grew.
‘We didn’t know what it was – we just thought it was quite pretty. But teenagers kept coming to the door saying, “Sorry, mate, we can smell ganja … you got any?”
‘I’d say, “No, I haven’t got anything”. They were real hoodies but also strangely polite, obviously thinking that I was some mean drug dealer.’
One teenager even turned up three times after he refused to take No for an answer.
‘It’s happened loads of times over the past couple of years and most recently just a few weeks ago before the police showed up,’ added Mr Vincent.
‘It’s unbelievable – I’ve never even smoked a joint in my life.’ Although moss phlox looks nothing like cannabis and grows vivid pink flowers in the spring, the plant gives off a similarly potent aroma.
Police swooped on the Vincents’ home after a drug dog ‘went berserk’ at the smell.
A neighbour said: ‘Drug cops were crawling up and down the alleyway that borders their house.
‘They were peering over the fence and trying to take cuttings from the plant. A sniffer dog was there too, barking whenever it got close to their garden.
‘It was bizarre – it was like being in a dodgy inner-city estate, not what you expect at all in rural Warwickshire.’
Although the plant is not illegal, police confirmed that they had advised the couple to get rid of it to prevent more unwanted attention.
They have now agreed to take it to the local dump.
Mr Vincent said: ‘They asked if we were having any bother with local kids and we said yes, we’re always having trouble with them. When the police saw the moss phlox, they knew exactly what it was.
‘Apparently an old lady who was growing it nearby got robbed a while back after criminals thought it was actually cannabis.
‘Funnily enough we never really smelt its aroma before we dug it up, when it was really strong.’
He added: ‘It didn’t look like marijuana, it just looked like a fern with lovely flowers and anyway, we didn’t even really know what cannabis smelt like.’