December 6, 2015
Keeping people out of your garden with dangerous-looking plants
Like all people who take pride in their garden, I want people to look at it, but not walk through it. No, I'm really not one of those cranky old "get off my lawn" guys, but my garden has a lot of plants that I'd really rather people not step on, and it also has hidden areas with watering heads, which are easy to accidentally kick, and break.
Walking up into a garden is practically irresistible to most people. I've been to many public gardens that have signs that tell people to stay out, but really, nobody pays attention to those signs. People who know that they should not walk into gardens also know that they should not stroll across someone's dining room table, and for the rest of the people, since they ignore signs (which look ugly anyway), you have to do design.
I've been refining the design of my front garden for years as I watch people stroll up into it, stepping on plants that are too small too see yet (like bulbs), and kicking watering heads off. I've even seen people walking through the garden, talking on their cell phone, or looking up at a bird flying by, and then their big clumsy feet come down on something that they didn't see. Not really their fault, I shouldn't have made the space look like it was somewhere to walk.
Since I live in the desert, I have the option of planting of really dangerous-looking, and dangerously-sharp plants. Those agaves that you see there are just as deadly as they look. The tips are razor sharp. I think that they're beautiful, but they also send a clear message - stay away.
The trick to this is to be sure that your dangerous plants actually look dangerous. I've seen people get gouged by some plants here in the Phoenix area that really didn't look very dangerous, until they tore through skin and clothes. Ouch! So play fair - keep the dangerous plants well away from where you want people to walk - mine are at least three feet from the edges at the tips, and make sure that they actually look dangerous. If you've done your design right, people will glance, and find another place to walk.
Posted by Brad Hall