Category Archives: bamboo

Let It Snow, Let Snow, Let It Snow…

The first winter snowstorm strolled lazily through the area over the weekend, dumping about ten inches of wet, heavy stuff here in central Maryland.  The cold and wet combination was just right enough that the snow didn’t stick to the roads — making it easy for Barb and I to clear the driveway by just pushing the snow to the side — yet still glued itself to nearly every surface. 

The snow was still coming down as I took this picture through our back window, where the crow’s nest of the treehouse sticks out like a sore thumb without its summer leaf cover:

Meanwhile, the thatch of bamboo still standing by the old fireplace in the back corner bowed down under the weight of the snow and cried out, “I’m tropical, dammit, TROPICAL!”

And while Abbey has slowed down a bit with hip dysplasia, she had surprisingly little trouble in the snow, frolicking and leaping playfully before finally settling down and tossing up gobs of snow with her nose:

And the geraniums on the back porch?  Forget it.  They were hanging around like tough guys through November, braving the cold weather and still trying to bloom before the first hard frost.  Here they are on December 2 . . .

. . . and here they are on December 5. Say goodnight, Gracie.

And how was your weekend?


Fifty years ago — so I am told — there was an enormous man-made lily pond in our backyard. Even had I not been told this, I would have known. The crumbling remains of the stone wall that lined the edge of the pond are still poking up through the grass in our yard, making a semi-circle under the shadows of the chestnut trees. Several years ago, while clearing away brush, I discovered the buried casing that used to house an underwater light. But there’s a sturdier, more stubborn reminder of the Lily Pond That Was: two thick patches of bamboo.

Oh, it’s lovely stuff, I’ll give you that — tall, leafy, and green almost year-round. Even the slightest wind hisses as it passes through, making the evenings sound warm and exotic.

But it grows everywhere. Its root system — which looks like a human spinal cord — dips and turns and tangles and snakes its way through my yard, weaving between tree roots to shoot up a pencil-thin bamboo shoot at the base of our Japanese maple. It erupts through the cracks in the low stone wall, and spurts up a row of prison bars in the middle of the lawn.

And it grows fast. The morning after a rain storm, I’ll find three-foot stalks of bamboo hunkered together in the corner of the yard. If I catch it fresh, I can usually kick them over — the thicker stalks make a satisfying hollow whonk! as I punt them with my boot — but if I don’t cut it down within the first day or so, the trunks quickly thicken up to the point where I either need to run over the thinner shoots with my riding mower, or cut the thicker trunks down with tree loppers.

It’s a war of attrition, and after several years of fighting these little skirmishes, I’ve actually managed to clear away the largest patch in the middle of the yard — the patch that had forced one chestnut tree and the Japanese maple to twist their branches away from the thick mess of bamboo for over thirty years. I’ve lopped and sawed down over a hundred bamboo trees, leaving behind stumps that gradually became rock-hard stubs that twist ankles and bust lawn mower blades. Only now have they just started to decay enough that I can force them and their stubborn root balls out of the ground by whacking them sideways with a sledgehammer. In this area, at least, they don’t appear to be coming back.

It’s a different story down in the corner of the yard, where a thick patch of the stuff still stands there in exotic defiance. Like Sisyphus pushing his rock, I’ll continue to mow down new shoots each week, only to have them erupt anew, thicker and greener, the next wet day. It would almost be therapeutic, if it wasn’t so frustrating.