Plants That Bite Back

The historic, tranquil college gardens… or are they? Most of the time yes- but not always. There are some gardens at Trinity where access is very restricted these are our very own secret gardens.  There are others though, that are more accessible and some of our formal courts and more famously The Backs are open to the public. But for the majority of the college gardens these are only for college members and their guests. During the spring and summer months, we do have many events in the gardens from the very small to as large as our May Ball.

I will not bore with stories of the damage we get on our lawns from such events. And some will already know that we are famous for our ‘Keep Off The Grass’ signs, as a lot of our main court lawns only the Fellowship are allowed to walk on the grass… and of course the gardeners. But unfortunately from time to time we have to plant something to discourage that *two footed pest* so that they cannot walk through that border, stand on the bed to talk to their friend through a window, take a short cut or have that drunken fight with that plant.

So when we have decided that it is time to put in that particular plant that will give someone a gentle reminder when needed, we have to think of several factors. Firstly Health and Safety, I will keep my thoughts to myself on that one (or I will get into trouble); secondly will it look good and the most important one of them all, from a scale of 1-10 (I often go to eleven on this one) how vicious are they… don’t worry about the Health and Safety at this point. Do we need the slightly scratchy or the more vicious, that will give the drunken reveller something else other than a headache in the morning. Hopefully that little reminder that will make them think ‘ I won’t do that again’… I live in hope.

Poncirus trifoliata 

A truly stunning shrub that looks good all year round. Beautiful scented flowers in June/July and small hard, satsuma-like fruits in the Autumn. Poncirus is armed with some of the most vicious spines in our garden.

Ribes speciosum 

Ribes speciosum, this has to one of my favourites. Beautiful Fuschia like flowers in the spring, with an eventual height of 2.5m and a spread of 1.5m. This shrub can also be trained on a wall. The spines on this plant will give you a bite you will not forget… you will only mess with this little beauty once.

The Holly Hedge

It all depends which Holly you plant when it comes how vicious they are. Ranges from the slightly scratchy to some of the prickliest plants in the garden.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea ‘Nana’

Not the most vicious one you can get (Berberis julianae is pretty good for that), a low hedge that looks good and even though slightly brittle it does keep people off the bed.

Rosa ‘Wickwar’

Picture apr2011 2524

All Roses are a good deterrent if needed… but this one is a right vicious bugger. Can be trained on a wall or grown in the border on some sort of framework, we have one on a large tripod. One of our gardeners used to wear a hard hat when pruning this Rose. I had one of our Wickwars removed because it became a nightmare to prune… plus it wasn’t a very good shape. Pick a fight with this one… and you will lose!

But sometimes we need something a little tougher than the garden can provide…

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Frustrated Gardener
    Jun 13, 2014 @ 19:59:52

    Truly vicious! My favourite of the bunch is Ribes speciosum, I love the elegantly arching stems. Useful shortlist of self defending plants with great descriptions

    Reply

  2. ontheedgegardening
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 14:51:01

    I love the ribes too! Mind you that poncirus looking interesting ……

    Reply

  3. thelonggardenpath
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 09:00:16

    Thankfully, no need for a deterrent, but the Poncirus interests me. You mentioned scented flowers! Do they have the beautiful scent of citrus tree flowers? Could be on my wish list!

    Reply

  4. thebikinggardener
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 21:37:37

    I love growing plants that can defend themselves – so much so that I did a feature in Garden Answers a few years ago about spiny plants called ‘Plants that bite back’ – great minds and all that?

    Reply

    • thetattooedgardener
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 18:18:52

      Great stuff! I’ll have to see if I can check than one out 🙂 I always think the spiny plants add even more interest into the garden as well as being practical. Plus you can always be a little mischievous with where you plant them.

      Reply

      • thebikinggardener
        Jun 25, 2014 @ 18:54:45

        Indeed. I am growing Solanum pyracanthos/on/um this year for the first time and although they are small plants they are wonderfully prickly. And S. sisymbrifolium, but I have grown that before 🙂

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