kid/graffiti deterrant plants
February 9, 2005 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Damn Kids! Filter: The wall behind my building faces an industrial and unincorporated area of the town, and it's prime real estate for spray-painting, vandalism, and the sort of activity in which teenage hooligans and ruffians (*cough*karma returns*cough*) tend to engage. I don't much care if kids spray-paint back there--I just don't want them painting the windows or leaving their empty paint cans and beer bottles back there.

So I was thinking a way to discourage them would be to plant some thorny, prickly, brambly-type stuff back there--ideally, it's something that doesn't need tending, isn't poisonous, and has lots of thorns and prickly things. I'd rather not install motion-sensing security lights; I'd just like to make painting my wall a difficult experience. Any ideas or suggestions for non-poisonous brambly, prickly, thorny plants?
posted by fandango_matt to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
There are some suggestions at Gardenlerner and Gardenweb. Some of them mention plants that have edible berries or are favored by birds, so they shouldn't be poisonous. Both sites mention hollies in particular.

I found these by googling for "thorny barrier" - one general term for the plants you're looking for is "barrier hedge" or "barrier shrub". You might try asking for recommendations on barrier plants at a local nursery, since the most appropriate kind will probably depend on where you live.
posted by vorfeed at 3:04 PM on February 9, 2005

You could try pampas grass. It'll take over the area you plant it in and is sort of a pest in that regard, but it has very sharp blades and can give a nasty cut - assuming that's the end result you want.
posted by glyphlet at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2005

Himalayan Blackberry.
The only problem is - you will never get rid of it.
posted by mildred-pitt at 3:09 PM on February 9, 2005

Blackberry is ubiquitous in this capacity, and frankly I'm surprised it didn't occur to you.

It will spread rapidly if not occasionally chopped at, but otherwise should need no attention. Blackberry is probably the way to go, here, but it will do nothing whatsoever about litter accumulation. In fact, it may worsen it, since it's harder to fish the inevitable bottles and wafting trash out of brambles than to clean up an open space.
posted by majick at 3:16 PM on February 9, 2005

I concur with the blackberrry, although it is impossible to get rid of once it is there.
posted by patrickje at 3:16 PM on February 9, 2005

A fourth for Himalayan blackberry, the Oregon state weed. (And a delicious one at that!)
posted by jdroth at 3:23 PM on February 9, 2005

Consider just dilligently painting over the "art" and painting over it again promptly when it happens next. The best way to discourage graffiti is to not let it sit. If the artwork doesn't remain to admire, the kids will find a new place where it will.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:24 PM on February 9, 2005

Blackberry is the Washington State weed as well, and is also quite yummy (although if it's right next to a place with lots of auto or industrial emissions, you might think twice about snacking).
posted by matildaben at 3:49 PM on February 9, 2005

concur - we have them in BC as well. Trouble is, you might dissuade the kids from coming near the wall, but you'll have to shoo away older folks who come by with baskets and plastic containers!
posted by seawallrunner at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2005

You're going to need something that can get established quickly. Otherwise, "the sort of activity in which hooligans and ruffians tend to engage" might include trampling or tearing up your new bushes.

But yeah, my first thought was blackberry if you've got the right climate for it (which I think includes most of the U.S. — and I see from your profile that you're in San Francisco, where in my limited experience pretty much anything will grow.) Plus, then you get to eat blackberries during the summer. Yum.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2005

Hey, I have a great idea -- how about blackberry?

posted by mudpuppie at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2005

Since Himalayan Blackberry is considered an invasive plant or a noxious weed in parts of the U.S., you should think twice about planting it.
If you do decide to plant it, you might want to double-check local regulations to make sure that it's not going to cost you if the state comes along and has to rip it up.
posted by madajb at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2005

Why not hire the best, most respected graffiti artist in your area and have him/her paint your wall? That is what a lot of places in Sao Paulo (Brazil) do, and it works. The other kids respect quality work and won't paint over it or vandalise it. This also improves the general aspect of your building. Adding trash receptacles and plants is also nice.
posted by ig at 4:19 PM on February 9, 2005

Washington Hawthorne
posted by grefo at 4:39 PM on February 9, 2005

Don't paint over it. That's the least interesting (in terms of your surrounding neighborhood) solution possible. Though there's a fantastic short film called The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, all about abstract impressionism.

The house I live in, in Tucson, AZ, has cactus planted under all the windows, which totally makes me feel safer.
posted by soviet sleepover at 4:57 PM on February 9, 2005

Hey fandango, if you have a nice sturdy brick as opposed to siding or another easily lifted exterior, what about going the non-prickly route, and trying a climbing vine? You live in a nice temperate climate, so just about anything will work. I like clematis because it flowers so beautifully and is easy to care for. I used a grape vine to disguise an ugly link fence bounding my house, and it grew like a mofo.

Of course, if you think you'll ever want to paint or otherwise alter the exterior, this is out of the question, but like another poster said, spiny prickly stuff collects plastic, and the last thing you want is to have to stick your arms in it on a routine basis to keep it clear.
posted by melissa may at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2005

Bougainvillea has spines, loves to grow up walls, and will grow in San Francisco. Plus, it's purty.
posted by Guy Smiley at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2005

Here in Texas there's something called greenbriar. It might grow in the Bay Area; you never know. It's notorious for growing up around the stems of trees and what not and is a vine with lots of little stickers. It looks harmless but if you fall into it, you take the vines with you when you leave and it takes a while to extricate yourself. I would recommend the blackberry, with greenbriar planted in amoungst it.

But that's just me.
posted by Doohickie at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2005

I'll second ig on the suggestion there. A good graffiti artist is quite capable of a nice looking mural, and there's a general respect between these sorts. If it's fine with you and anyone else who'd have say over it, try a mural of Jesus. A lot of ruffians may not live a good life, but a lot are religious and quite respectful of such.

Of course, you may not prefer that, so you could try something with a family scene, especially with a mother figure. Most of those guys would feel guilty if their mother/grandmother were watching them vandalize and get drunk.

On the downside, it'd cost a bit of money and might not work. Still, thorny plants can be problematic, and a mural will require absolutely minimal attention.
posted by Saydur at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2005

Honey Locust and some thorny bushes.
posted by borkencode at 11:55 PM on February 9, 2005

A good graffiti artist is quite capable of a nice looking mural, and there's a general respect between these sorts.

Sure, that's fine if you want graffiti on your walls, but if you don't particularly want graffiti, you don't want to pay someone to put it on your walls.

Go the plant route -- the world needs more green, less tagging and trash. Cover your wall in green. It will look lovely and make painting difficult and pointless. Consult your local gardening center.
posted by pracowity at 12:32 AM on February 10, 2005

Thornapple. Vicious long thorns! Sturdy! Probably won't spread out of control, but I dunno about that. It grows in small trees in Michigan, so probably bigger in California.
posted by Goofyy at 3:23 AM on February 10, 2005

I don't much care if kids spray-paint back there--

I'd like to second what ig said. Forget the plants. Why not paint an arty message that says, "have at it on this wall - just clean up after yourself". A garbage can would be good but then becomes the problem of who empties it. Maybe include a map to the nearest dumpster in the painted message?
posted by yoga at 4:29 AM on February 10, 2005

Wow, excellent ideas. I'm going to plant bushes around the windows and I just put a trash can back there--I'll post notes later tonight:

1. Please don't tag or paint over the windows.
2. Please clean up when you're finished.

Thank you, everyone, for your advice and suggestions.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:18 PM on February 10, 2005

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