need an alternative to Barberry

lori_holder(z5 MA)September 22, 2010

I need to edge the front of my perennial border with a plant that will deter intoxicated college students and neighborhood vagrants from passing out in the vegetation. As a recent import to the state of MA, I thought one of the dwarf barberries would be a good choice, but I find out that they are on the banned list.

The location is well-drained with a southern exposure. I'd like something that will work well with a cottage garden style perennial bed (it's got tulips, daffodils, and eremurus in the spring, and daylilies and rudbeckia in the summer).

I'd like it to be low-growing or something that can be made to be low-growing, not an aggressive grower that will spread out over the bed or require heavy pruning several times during the growing season, and thorny or prickly.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

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cloud_9(z5 CT)

I don't think college students and vagrants are always so picky about their landing spots when passing out. How about punji sticks? At least they will never pass out there a second time. ;-) Sorry you are vexed by local vermin.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 10:51AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

You may be better off with a fence. Falling bodies will squash any nice low-growing hedge.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 11:52AM
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javaandjazz(z6 CT)

Is the red leaved barberry banned as well? I have had some in my yard for years.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 5:41PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Three plants that immediately come to mine are a flowering quince, pyracantha, and any number of groundcover roses (Fairy, Flower Carpet, Drift, etc.) All of these will require some level of pruning and possibly extensive pruning to keep them in bounds and low like you want. The bright side of this problem, though, is that the plant (hedge) will recover rapidly if it is squashed. I can assure you that any of these plants will be a strong deterrent to just about any animal, human or otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 9:17PM
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NHBabs z4b-5a NH(4b-5aNH)

I don't think that my fairy rose ever got much taller than 2 1/2 feet. It bloomed all summer, but a few seasons it had foliar disease issues.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 9:58PM
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Knockout roses may be thorny enough too. They are a little taller which may prove a better deterrent than a groundcover type. But if you want "front of the border" not sure of your height requirements for whats in back of them.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 6:52PM
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Gosh, what an interesting dilemma! I think I would go with a white picket fence or a decorative black metal fence. If you want to stick with a natural barrier, I would opt for the Quince. It's dense, thorny, tough, durable, and though it does require pruning, it is not a high maintenance plant. Japanese Flowering Quince is lower growing than the Common Flowering Quince, so that's probably what you would want.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 8:46AM
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What about a row of yuccas, or hardy agaves? Maybe it's the transplanted southwesterner in me showing, but they can be quite attractive in an almost sculptural way, and yet can also be a quite, er, *pointed* deterrent!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 10:41AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

javaandjazz: I believe the ban applies to all of the Japanese barberry cultivars (Berberis thunbergii).

Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List

This doesn't mean that you can't keep a barberry that's been growing in your yard; it only means that you can't buy, sell or propagate them. I also have a nice purple barberry that I bought years ago before I knew better, and I'm not about to rip it out.

Whether you should keep it is a different issue - you have to consider whether the birds will distribute berries to the surrounding countryside and potentially mess up the native ecosystem. It's not a clear-cut decision.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 8:46PM
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I do love Fairy rose; mine's about 3 feet tall and is in the middle of a cottage garden off sorts, along the street.

It's in a fairly open situation, and I have not seen foliage problems in the 5 or so years I've had it. It's nearly aggressive, but could easily be contained with annual pruning; I don't prune mine, but it does tend to spread.

I suspect that a passed-out individual could sleep under it undisturbed for quite awhile, without being discovered or marring the scene at all.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 9:16PM
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