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need an alternative to Barberry

Posted by lori_holder z5 MA (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 22, 10 at 9:04

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!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 22, 10 at 11:52

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

Claire


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

  • Posted by jwutzke 5 and then some (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 28, 10 at 10:41

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!


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 28, 10 at 20:46

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.

Claire


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RE: need an alternative to Barberry

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.


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