Guest post by Sally Blanton

I confess that I did voluntarily plant a start of bamboo in my residential, urban yard because how else could you get a beautiful living privacy fence 25’ tall or higher? I got my start at the local arboretum, believe it or not. And when the wind blew, it was really pretty.

Sure the snow and ice bent it over the fence onto the school driveway that abuts my yard, causing me to go out and use heavy loppers to cut it. Lots of people said they liked it and some parents even told me that the children loved the way the wet branches swept their cars as they drove by.

And at first I had a nice crop of bamboo stalks I could post on buy nothing sites to share with anyone who could use them. It was definitely a renewable crop.

Then the stalks got big. Really big and bamboo started popping up in my flower beds — flower beds that were at least 20 feet away. The love affair was over. It was time to remove it,  without destroying other plants, if possible.

Of course, I knew it could be invasive, but I had no idea of the survival skills of this plant. I consulted the internet, botanists I knew, people who claimed to have confronted the Devil Bamboo and won. Some claimed that toxic herbicides would do it in, others that it could be smothered, or burned or just discouraged by mowing. How wrong they all were.

Bamboo does not grow in a linear fashion, it continually branches out like a vast underground spider web, and when attacked, it just goes deeper. I had always prided myself on my scorn for chemical agriculture, but I lost my organic virginity in this fight.

And I sold my soul for nothing because herbicides only kill the growth visible above ground. Under the ground, the
runners keep on keeping on, putting up nice new green buds with impunity.

So I hired laborers with mattocks and stump grinders and plenty of energy. We amassed a stack of bamboo skeletons (my trophies) that were 6’ tall and 8’ long. My formerly beautiful yard looked like a war zone.

That was last fall. Our unusually cold winter here in central Kentucky gave me hope that this rejected botanical lover would skulk away, never more to be seen, or at least be so humiliated he wouldn’t appear freshly clothed in new green.

Wrong. So instead of the peaceful, laid back slow-paced gardening that a woman of my age should be enjoying, I once again take up the mattocks, shovels and pitchforks to continue the attack.

Will it kill me before I kill it? Quite likely.

Sally Blanton gardens in Lexington, Kentucky.

Bamboo image by Alain Van den Hende, courtesy of wiki commons. (It’s not Sally’s bamboo.)