Bring me a shrubbery
May 19, 2011 7:49 PM   Subscribe

What plant should we put in the box out front? Next to our stoop is a raised brick box with maybe 20x20x10 inches filled with dirt, where we want to plant something for decoration. The problem is that no matter what we plant, after a couple of months somebody comes along and pulls it out.

What is wrong with people!?! Our neighbor told us not to plant before Mother's Day, because people steal flowers to bring home. But this isn't limited to Mother's Day, or even to taking the plants home. I've come out and found plants sitting on the sidewalk ten feet away.

We rent a Baltimore rowhouse just west of downtown on a busy street, facing south. We don't really know our neighbors, at least not past the wave and say hi stage, but we do get along with them. I can't remember all the plants we've tried in the last three years, but the list definitely includes Persian shield, holly, and a miniature Christmas tree of some sort.

I've thought about cactus (some of our neighbors do this) or poison ivy. But there are kids in the neighborhood, as well as a group home for older developmentally disabled persons on my block. I don't want to hurt anybody or anybody's pet. I also don't want somebody to take revenge on our house or us for fighting back in that way. So suggestions along those lines are non-starters.

This really upsets my wife every time it happens. Hopefully you smart people can help me.
posted by postel's law to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Don't do flowers, do herbs. I love our herb garden, there's nothing better than being able to pick fresh basil, chives, dill, etc. And, nobody will mess with them.
posted by tomswift at 7:54 PM on May 19, 2011

posted by Iron Rat at 8:00 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ornamental grasses may work. You can get lots of different color - the blades aren't dangerously sharp but they definitely wouldnt be comfortable or easy (once established) to remove. Grasses can also look great year-round, if you find species which will survive the winter in the planter. Get to a good nursery....
posted by pilibeen at 8:07 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Plant vetiver, a grass with the most fantastic roots which, when cleaned and dried, make excellent potpourri for drawers and linen closets.
posted by Anitanola at 8:12 PM on May 19, 2011

Response by poster: For those recommending herbs, we do have a garden on our rooftop deck that includes various herbs. I'm curious why folks think herbs would be less likely to be pulled out?

Definitely going ornamental here, though a good-looking herb for the right reasons might still work. I like the grasses idea, but keep them coming!
posted by postel's law at 8:31 PM on May 19, 2011

Best answer: Baltimore is apparently zone 7a. Horseradish once established would be winter hardy and practically unkillable. The above grade foliage is large and leafy like a tough lettuce.

Another option is Mint. Again it is practically an invasive weed once established, it has tiny purple flowers thru much of the summer and the leaves are somewhat pretty. People might end up stealing the leaves but the plants themselves should be ok. A piece of expanded metal secured over the box with the soil a couple inches below would ensure that passers buy don't harvest it so low that the plant dies while still allowing the plant to grow up through it to hide the metal. And it smells good while providing some deterrent against cats.
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding mint... They'd have to be fools, FOOLS, if they think merely pulling it out can kill it off.
posted by BleachBypass at 9:38 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ornamental grasses can look great in a planter and have very tenacious and deep roots. I'm sure someone could pull them out, but at least you'd have the satisfaction of knowing they had to work damn hard at it.
posted by centerweight at 9:45 PM on May 19, 2011

posted by cosmicbandito at 10:06 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pyracantha, specifically "Teton". It has really nasty sones on it, but also berries for the birds. it's not the sort of plant you try to pull out twice.
posted by Solomon at 11:13 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

"sones" should read "spines".
posted by Solomon at 11:30 PM on May 19, 2011

Best answer: I would not advise putting herbs anywhere the general public can get to them or if you do, don't ever plan on using them in your food -- we will now skip a long story involving teenagers in Television Hill, their neighbor's herb garden and urine. You really don't want to know.

I'd say go with succulents like aloes, peperomia etc. They'll take a lot of abuse, don't usually need to be babysat for watering and come in a lot of varieties. They have some really odd & neat textures too.

If you go to the Farmer's Market under 83, try the guy across from the red beans & rice/jambalaya truck (Ethel & Ramones) down from the salmon cream cheese (Neopole) and next to the bread/pastry folks (if you get to the nut lady, you're too far) The guy usually has a pickup truck with irises and other bulbs on a table and a small selection of succulents below - it is hit or miss if he has them - I didn't see any last week but I also didn't look.

Valley View Farms had a wide range of succulents two weeks ago - back corner on the York Road side, the row against the building.
posted by jaimystery at 4:21 AM on May 20, 2011

Or a hawthorne.

I'd plant what you want, and set up a spy camera. Pointless vandalism should be found out and dealt with.
posted by rich at 6:44 AM on May 20, 2011

Best answer: I have two lovely Rose Glow Barberry bushes in my front yard, and I love them.

They're pretty all year long - nice leaves in summer, a rosy glow in certain seasons, then tiny red berries in winter. And they are really really prickly and spiny, so they keep people and stuff out (like people who've tried to glean my crabapples, or steal my cat, who happily camps out under them because the boughs have a nice arch to them. The berries have their uses, but I just leave them because they're pretty. The bushes can get huge, but they can be carefully pruned. They're pretty hardy, and I'd think they could do well in your area.
posted by peagood at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2011

Best answer: Poncirus trifoliata, aka Flying Dragon or Japanese Bitter Orange. It's a beautiful, visually striking plant and quite hardy. It also has serious spines that will cause any sensible person to reconsider trying to grab it and pull it out. It's one of the plants commonly used in "security landscaping".
posted by Lexica at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2011

Flowering Quince. Pretty flowers, edible fruit, NASTY thorns. Fast-growing too.
posted by Ostara at 9:55 AM on May 20, 2011

PS - This problem is also rampant in Toronto, and I have been seeing people using wires, cables and bicycle chains to hold down larger plants in their planters. And planters are sometimes chained to buildings. So, you can make it harder to remove a larger bush by securing it somehow?
posted by peagood at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2011

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