Sunday, December 22, 2013

Missives from the Bamboo Front

My backyard when we moved in
It's been a while since I whined about the bamboo taking over my back yard. That doesn't mean I've forgotten about it, though...or my goal to turn my yard into a mostly native planted Avian Haven. The past few months have resulted in a stalemate, but as of today, the war's back on!

For those of you who might have missed the backstory, a couple of years ago, Greenturtle and I bought a lovely, 100-year old house in the the sleepy town of Clinton, here in central Illinois. I was especially excited to be moving so close to a lot of great birding hotspots, and because the house is on a double lot, which seemed perfect for my goal of transforming it into a tiny sanctuary for birds and native plants. Of course, all that bamboo would have to go...

How naive I was! How uninformed and foolish! Had I done a bit of research, I would have known that it is almost impossible to remove an established bamboo grove. Not only is my yard full of it, but so is the neighbor's (and he likes his). It's like this horrible science fiction monster. You see, all of those culms, each and every one, is part of a single organism, that spreads by means of underground runners. (It's invasiveness and persistence have led some Internet yard experts--and victims--to call it "damboo.")

So even if I cut each and every culm down (which I have, more times than I can count), the beast itself continues to live under the soil. And since my bamboo is attached to my neighbor's, it continues to pull nutrients from those culms. So what I have to do, basically, is tear up my entire lawn, probably with help of a backhoe, remove as many underground runners as I can, and then dig a reinforced trench along the side of my yard to prevent reinvasion. Even that won't really do the trick, as any missed node will continue to sprout, but at that point, I can mow them down ruthlessly until, deprived of the parent plant, they eventually die off.

After completing my Master Naturalist training in the fall, I was reinvigorated with my plans for the Avian Haven, but I decided to allow the bamboo one last winter, because at least birds can shelter in it. Big mistake. Bamboo is a ruthless foe, and respects no attempts at truce. Actually, it was my neighbor's bamboo that struck back.

Yesterday, we had an ice storm, and since I had a full pantry and a fresh stack of library books to occupy me, I stayed inside. All was happy until I tried to get on the Internet after dinner. No connection. I didn't worry too much, just went back to reading.

This morning, the connection was still down, and looking out my windows, I immediately saw why: the ice had caused the bamboo from next door to flop over my fence and snap the cable. I could see it there, still propped up on the slumping line. Damboo!! My feelings at that moment are hard to put into words--murderous rage is probably the closest. Something like this:

Ice or no ice, I grabbed my extra-strong shears and cut down each culm that had dared to flop over my fence. Then I cut down some of their neighbors, just to be on the safe side. Shards of ice rained down over my head as each one toppled, but what did I care? I just wanted more bamboo to punish!! Seriously, who would have guessed that a plant could inspire so much blood-lust?

Normally I consider myself a very peaceful, laid-back person. All I wanted was some pretty flowering trees and a birdbath or two back there...was that so much to ask, damboo? Did you have to take over the entire yard with your underground runners, making it impossible for me to dig even a small spot for a shrub? And then the bamboo had to go one step further, and take out my Internet cable! Well, that's a line it should not have crossed, because now it's full-out war!

Well, it's still winter, so there's not much I can do at the moment, except keep shearing off anything too close to my cable line. But just wait until spring. I don't care what it takes. A backhoe. A Bobcat. Agent Orange. There's bound to be some casualties. That's unfortunate, but trust me, you can't play nice with bamboo. It will be a long, bloody struggle, but in the end, when the last runner has been yanked from the earth and tossed onto a ceremonial bonfire, it will be oh so satisfying to behold the muddy crater that used to be my yard, and know that I have triumphed.

So, has anyone else ever wanted to murder a plant? Did you succeed?


  1. OMG, I'm so sorry, but I laughed while reading your post! Blame it on your GIFS! I have regarded some plants with loathing in the past, such as that poisonous vine-thing with the pretty purple-and-yellow flowers, deadly nightshade I think it was, mainly because I was afraid one of my grandkids or my dog would eat its little purple berries. I was not especially fond of Sacred Thistle, or whatever the heck this thistle plant was called, after I planted it ON PURPOSE to see what it looked like, and it had baby thistle plants coming up all over the neighborhood. But, truly, never have I had a plant foe like your damboo. I've read the suggestions for killing bamboo on, and wow!, it will be a war. Take no prisoners. MOM

  2. Ouch! I'm glad I don't have a bamboo fight on my hands. How far underground do the bamboo runners go. Do you have to dig down 3 feet? 5? MORE?!

    Let me know if you there is anything I can do you help.


    1. Usually they are 1-3 feet down. I'll have a Death to Bamboo Party in the spring, if you want to show up. Any fresh hands for the cause will be welcome!

  3. BTW, the pictures are awesome. Who's the girl with the eye-patch?


    1. Hey, bro...too little too late, right? I just found your comment when I was looking through my "spam" folder. Not sure why blogger thought you were spamming me?!?

      In answer to your question, she is Michelle Rodriguez in the movie "Machete," which is one of my favorites. And thanks, no matter how belatedly, for the compliment on my pics!