No matter how many years you’ve gardened, one day, you will wake up and say to yourself “Why on earth did I do that?!” I know this is true because it’s happened to me and many gardeners I know. Take, for example, the lovely, modest, tiny clump of what I believed to be switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), a small North American species of bamboo, that Dean and I found growing in the front yard (soon to be the vegetable garden) when we first moved here. It looked to me like the native, well-behaved switch cane we had growing over yonder behind the shed, which has stayed pretty well put for going on 8 years or more. So, we dug up the little clump, divided it and spaced it just so in a more appropriate spot. Or so I thought…
For nearly 6 years those little clumps of bamboo behaved themselves just like the other clump of switch cane we have growing. The clumps were relatively small and every year produced a few harvest-size canes for plant stakes and what not. Those little canes were just as pretty as could be, adding color and texture to a bland shady area in a shallow draw next to the garden. Because of the big trees down there, nothing else would grow. So when these seemed to like it there, we patted ourselves on the back and enjoyed the view.
Over the years, the big trees began shading the vegetable garden more and more, so we had a few removed. Then, on the first really warm day in late spring, we noticed the shoots. Lots and lots of new shoots poking up all over the place. At first we were excited, but that quickly turned into that “Why on earth did I do that?” moment. We literally stood and watched that cane grow 3 feet in one day. The next day it was 5 feet and up and up it went. Those canes grew so fast you could hear them groan!
Unbeknownst to us, those diminutive clumps had been sending their creeping root stock in all directions for years, perhaps searching for the bright sunlight they craved. And as soon as we cut those trees, the bamboo had exactly what it had been looking for. A few exploratory digs in the iris bed on the edge of the garden, revealed multiple and extensive bamboo roots and many large shoots that had popped up out of the ground and were diving back under for another run at the garden we have worked so hard on.
I still don’t know exactly what type of bamboo this is (perhaps you do?), but I definitely know that it’s not switch cane. A close comparison of the leaves told me that right away. But why, oh why, had I not done that before? More importantly, what am I going to do now? Since I don’t do herbicides of any kind – and honestly, the only kind of herbicide that will kill these suckers will surely be really toxic stuff – I guess we’ll just have to dig them out one big gnarly root at time.
If I had known that the pretty little diminutive sprout we dug up so long ago was running bamboo, I would have burned it immediately. But seeing as how I didn’t, I’ll just have to chalk it up to a doozy of a “Why on earth did I do that?!” moment and enjoy the big fat bamboo canes I’ll harvest while digging out the clumps – all winter long!
The moral of the story is: Be leery of plants that you think you know, but that you really do not know. If you are unsure, plant them in pots or in some way out of the way place that you can mow, till, or in my case, bulldoze, if things go wrong.
Until then, happy gardening!
© 2016 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Show Me Oz | Living and loving life in the Ozarks!
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Filled to the brim with colorful stories, wild walks, botanical musings, and a just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor A personal and inspiring tale of homesteading in the Ozark backwoods by noted author, naturalist and plant organic gardener, Jill Henderson.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.
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