Urban Gardener: Bamboo Bamboozle Blizzards
Saturday, January 04, 2014
Does the house across the street and down a little drive you straight towards anti-depressants? Is there an eternally ugly twin pair of heavily creosoted telephone poles rooted forever in your sidewalk? Perhaps you have that urban version of New Orleans voodoo spirit traps disguised as utility wires, braided, twisted, coiled up above your cobblestone entry spitting a buzz simply to annoy squirrels.
The bamboo solution
The answer to all this and more, much more, is easy to grow and fun to watch. You’ll never again glance south and pray for a new coat of paint. Beware, tough urban gardener that you are. Like anything really good there are perils. The “Richard Parker” of the plant world, one more assertive than crabgrass, as tenacious as a guilty conscience, is the bamboo tribe. Head’s up, friends, this group can be grown in containers or on baronial vistas. It is not for the faint of heart. You need guts.
Bamboos are giant varieties of grass. There are many suitable for our zone 6 climate. I was determined to create a view and censor what I could see with bamboo. Cultural requirements are the same as for any turf. Well drained loam with a penchant for the damp is perfect. The more organic material incorporated into the planting bed , the better off the roots and future growth of the plants. I’ve remarkable but hardly unusual results with bamboo.
I dug into sandy loam along the east west angle of a 50 foot long 6 foot high old cedar fence. The paved sidewalk ran along one side of the fence, getting sun all day. I planted the bamboo in the corner of the fence with great labor. Bamboo is easily grown from large root divisions. The arduous digging, separating, protecting, and transporting roots is a major hurtle. If offered bamboo, “all you can dig up” many have balked. Some bamboos create tough Gordian knots of tangled roots impossible to foil. Retreat and take a different approach. Consult local growers and survey the many varieties. Pay a little extra up front as the future growth yield strong dividends.
My first planting of 5 canes and many roots survived an ordinary summer and what seemed the windiest winter on record. Somewhere in the middle of the following May, after I’d piled manure, hay, leaves and the arsenal of organic gardening on the planting bed, large shouts began to emerge. With excitement and anticipation I kept count, 1, 3, 5, 7, 13, and each swelled upward. By Memorial Day weekend, 110 shouts had grown up through the heavy mulch and were six feet tall. At the end of summer, the patch was firmly established.
Not one to leave anything alone when I am accustomed to love and attention, I found the bamboo a perfect place to hide bag after bag of leaves. Lawn clippings, ashes, compost and manure all encouraged the bamboo.
The gift that keeps on giving
Many have warned me of the great bamboo threat. From my point of view virtually all thriving beings have merit somewhere, somehow, and living in a city is to practice diversity. I’ve found overkill to work as well as simple observation: bamboo is not difficult to control and with very little care will reward the cultivator in manifest ways.
Bamboo is moody. The canes generate an audible sound. The ground at their feet is often a monochromatic layer of grainy colored blanched leaves. Birds are attracted to the dense evergreen foliage. Wind slows down around bamboo and the plants are the very expression of resilience in the face of adversity. Heavy snowfall may bend the plants down to impossible angles and ice cruelly glue stalks to the earth. Be patient, gardener. Don’t pull and tug at the plants, a thaw is certain to come. The bamboo will phoenix like rise from their humble submission and once again dominate their place.
Light is drawn into bamboo and never emerges. Darkness hovers at the base of bamboo. The intensity of bamboo spirit is obvious to all. Tranquil gardeners align themselves with the plants and study the grove. Soon, the forest aspect of bamboo calms and one is drawn inward towards an inner peace. Time is frozen and blizzards come and go. The bamboo endures and is a study in unity.
I dug deep trenches and buried sheets of plywood wrapped in tarpaulin along the planting beds to thwart the bamboo roots. Some intrepid bamboo roots ventured outward. It spread over the soil but under a thick mulch to cross parts of the barrier not topped with slabs of repurposed curbstones. I easily snapped those roots off with loopers and transplanted the “sports” to another place along the fence. The third spring offered countless new stalks. The bed became denser and spread far beyond the corner. Greenery now shrouds the house across the street. The old cedar fence disappears like the Appian Way into a forest of ever green stalks.
Bamboo follows the path of least resistance in very predictable manners. Guide yours this spring and enjoy the year long magic of this gigantic grass. Blizzards howl and the wind chimes clamor in cold gales. Wind chill factors multiply. Yet, out there, firmly anchored is an island of peace. The howls of the gale are transformed into a chorus of endurance and hope. The virtue of bending and always striving for a happy ending are visible in every bamboo planting. Grow some.
Related Slideshow: 10 New England Wine Getaways
Newport Vineyards is the perfect Rhode Island destination for wine lovers year round. Visit the winery this weekend for tastings and tours, featuring an array of award winning wines. The winery even has a convenient “Wine Bus;” a shuttle bus that is available to provide transportation to groups or individuals to the winery from downtown Newport.
909 E Main Road, Middletown, RI. (401) 848-5161.
Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineya
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton is much more than just a winery—it is a place to get away from the stresses of life and indulge your senses, a place to try new things, a place to focus on you. The vineyard is open every day, and invites you to come for a tasting and tour. Try their Petite Red, Vidal Blanc, and many more of their distinctive wines.
162 W Main Road, Little Compton, RI. (401) 635-8486.
Visit Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth to sample their estate grown and produced wine, made in small batches. While at the estate, try seven different wines and keep the wine glass for only $12. While you are tasting, take in the gorgeous views of both the vineyard and river. Besides tasting the wines, Greenvale also invites customers to tour the winery and learn about the history and process of winemaking at the vineyard.
582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth, RI. (401) 847-3777.
Maugle Sierra Vineyards
For a trip to a vineyard that includes much more than just wine, hop over the border to Ledyard, CT, to check out Maugle Sierra Vineyards. The vineyard hosts live music on Fridays and Sundays to compliment your wine tasting experience. Pack a dinner or light fare and enjoy a tasting session in the Sierra Room while you take in the sunset.
825 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard, CT. (860) 464-2987.
Nickle Creek Vineyards
Nickle Creek Vineyard is a family owned and operated Rhode Island wine treasure. The winery, located in Foster, makes it their mission to handcraft the most unique, high quality wines in the business. All wines are created in small batches, giving them a distinctly unique taste. This weekend, visit their tasting room to try their variety of wines. On your way out, be sure to pick up a bottle of Foster Nights to get you through those chilly New England evenings.
12 King Road, Foster, RI. (401) 369-3694.
Nashoba Valley Winery
Take the bite off the winter chill this weekend and take a drive to Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton. The winery hosts tasting events everyday from 10am-4:30pm For $5, receive a free tasting glass and samples of up to five different wines. Some favorites include Strawberry Rhubarb Wine, Holiday Special Cranberry Apple (a new release in November 2013), and New English Cider. If you are in the mood for something other than wine (if that’s possible), check out their beer selection as well!
100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton, MA. (978) 779-5521.
Bishop’s Orchards Winery
The wines from Bishop’s Orchards Winery and Farm Market in Guilford, CT, have won over 179 medals since the winery opened in 2005. The tasting room at Bishop’s is open seven days a week year round, so no time is off-limits for wine tasting. Head over on the weekend to enjoy a winery tour pre or post tasting session. While visiting the winery, also be sure to check out the market for fresh baked goodies.
1355 Boston Post Road, Guilford, CT. (203) 453-2338.
Diamond Hill Vineyards
For a cool twist on classic wine labels, look no further than Diamond Hill Vineyard in Cumberland. At Diamond Hill, you can get custom designed wine labels perfect for any occasion. If you’re interested in tasting the wines, visit their elegant tasting room for samples of their high quality wines such as Cranberry Apple, Estate Pinot Noir, or Blackberry.
3145 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland, RI. (401) 333-2751.
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery
Tucked away on the southern coast of Massachusetts, Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery, located about an hour’s drive from Worcester, is worth the trip. For only $10, you can take home a special edition etched wine glass and enjoy a tasting of up to six of their award-winning wines. While the tasting room is open Monday-Saturday, free winery tours are also offered to the public every Saturday from 1-3pm.
417 Hixbridge Rd, Westport, MA. (508) 636-3423.
Found on the southern Massachusetts coast about 30 minutes outside of Providence, is Travessia Winery in New Bedford. This micro-winery puts a twist on traditional wine culture with its cool urban flair. Travessia is open for sales and tastings Wednesday-Sunday, and invites customers to come in and enjoy their unique variety of wines.
760 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA. (774) 929-6534.
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