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
Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
Central Mass’s own Hardwick Vineyard & Winery, open March-December, is a close to home treasure that produces 3,000 gallons of wine each year. The winery, which grows 6 varieties of grapes, is built on a quiet road in Hardwick that abuts the Quabbin Reservoir. Located on the property is a majestic 200 year old mansion. This weekend, take the trip to the vineyard to enjoy a wine tasting. Favorites include Massetts Cranberry and Yankee Girl Blush. If you head out on a Sunday; you’ll be in luck—the winery is hosting Sangria Sundays for the rest of the month.
3305 Greenwich Road, Hardwick, MA. (413) 967-7763.
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.
A relatively young addition to the Massachusetts family of wineries and vineyards, Coastal Vineyards in South Dartmouth opened its doors in 2004. Coastal Vineyards grows eight varieties of grapes on their property, including Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and more. For a special treat, head over on Sunday for their Ugly Sweater Wine Party featuring acoustic musician Ryan Thaxter. Don your ugliest sweater to get 35% off your purchase—and a chance at a prize.
61 Pardon Hill Road, South Dartmouth, MA.
Amherst Farm Winery
Head out to one of Massachusetts’s favorite college towns this weekend to check out Amherst Farm Winery. Enjoy a wine tasting set in a cozy 19th century post and beam dairy barn. For only $5 receive a logo glass and a taste of 5 of their 15 wines, including unique flavors like chocolate raspberry, pumpkin frost, cranberry, and more. Bring a picnic and cozy up on their leather sofa by the fire to enjoy your wine with a snack.
529 Belchertown Road, Amherst, MA. (413) 253-1400.
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.
Mill River Winery
Mill River Winery, located in Rowley, is the perfect wine destination for a mini-getaway. Enjoy the gorgeous winter scenery of Western Massachusetts as you wind through country roads to the winery. Mill River’s tasting room is housed in a refurbished cider mill, complete with eclectic décor that provides for an excellent tasting and shopping experience. Try their delicious Naked Chardonnay, a full bodied chardonnay with aromatic notes of lemon zest and pear. If you would like to get a “Dirt to Bottle Tour,” make sure to be at the winery at 2pm or 4pm Saturday or Sunday.
498 Newburyport Turnpike, Rowley, MA. (978) 432-1280.
Black Birch Vineyard
For only $6, get the full Black Birch Vineyard experience—tasting and a tour! Enjoy the great mix of contemporary and rustic décor of the tasting room and the local culture of this Massachusetts winery. While you’re in, be sure to try their award winning selection of reds and whites.
155 Glendale Road, Southampton, MA. (413) 527-0164.
Taylor Brook Winery
Located just over the border, Taylor Brook Winery in Woodstock, CT, is a hidden gem. This winery tends to over 2,000 vines of the finest grapes in the region. Head down to enjoy the country hospitality of this great local business, which offers tastings, bottles of their wine, and other great gift items for purchase. For a delicious winter wine, try their Winter Pomegranate.
848 Route 171, Woodstock, CT. (860) 974-1263.
Obadiah McIntyre Farm
Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery
The Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery is located on the Charlton Orchards Farm property. The winery is owned and operated by a family that has been in the business of growing fruit for over 50 years, and began making wine in 1999. They are dedicated to making the best tasting wines around. Every weekend until the end of December, join them for a tasting and see for yourself.
44 Old Worcester Road, Charlton, MA. (508) 248-7941.
Puttney Mountain Winery
Just over the Vermont border, Putney Mountain Winery located inside Basketville, has been making delicious local wines since the 1990s. All of their wines are crafted from local produce, which makes for the best tasting wine possible. If you’re toting the kids along for the day, the winery also sells juices made from locally grown produce, like their Putney Bubbly Vermont Sparkling Black Currant.
8 Bellows Falls Road, Putney, VT. (802) 387-5925.
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