There is an alternative to evil bamboo

Bamboo is a funny little grass. Back in Georgia, we had bamboo on the property, nasty running bamboo, insidious bamboo, bamboo that came up through the driveway, invaded the property next door, and even crossed under the street to sprout in the neighbor’s yard. Now I didn’t plant this bamboo, I just had to find a way to cope with it, but I am here to tell you, do not plant running bamboo!

To try to control the bamboo in our own yard, we circled it with a trench about a foot deep, no mean feat in a tangle of bamboo and tree roots. We needed saws to cut 
through much of it before we could line the trench with heavy sheets of aluminum. We lined it at an angle so that any piece of bamboo putting out a root would leave the root exposed as it crept over the lining and we could cut it right away. Very, very labor intensive.

“But,” you say, “I like bamboo.” Truth is, so do I. What to do? We need to plant clumping bamboo. Clumping bamboo performs beautifully, grows as fast as other bamboos, and stays put. It doesn’t run around making a mess in your yard or your neighbor’s. Of course, it may occasionally need to be cut back, but I don’t think of that as just hacking it down, I think of it as harvesting, because bamboo is beautiful and very useful for building and making decorative objects that last a long time – even centuries.

One of our favorite restaurants, Tinajas, is putting up a two story addition. What did they use to start the building process? Bamboo poles held things in place until concrete was added and dried. Then there are bamboo floors, bamboo curtains and room dividers, bamboo cups and place mats, baskets and plant holders. The list just goes on and on.

So what kind of clumping bamboo to plant. Do you want a bamboo tree that grows to 30+ meters (100 feet or so) or a bamboo shrub that will be happy at 3 meters (maybe 10 feet). Construction diameter or reed-like.  Do you want a golden color, black, or a variegated variety? Here’s a hint – bamboo is easy to get started. Just go to your neighbor’s yard and ask for a nice piece, take it home and cover it with soil, sit back and wait. It doesn’t take long to sprout and, since bamboo can grow several feet in one day (a half meter), it won’t take long for you to have bamboo of your own.

Or, you can head to Bamboo Costa Rica and see what you can pick up. I plan to.Victoria Torley

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