If you were to drive down my street today you might not be able to tell, but I really enjoy working in the yard. Right now, we have a fledgling Crepe Myrtle in the front yard that doesn’t look like it made it through our cold and seemingly endless winter. However, my Asiatic Lily bulbs clustered around the base of it are about to bloom, so I don’t want to dig it out just yet. So we have a dead tree in the front. Surprisingly just today I got a flyer hung on my door for a tree service company. Go figure.
Digging in the dirt is something I have loved since we got our first house and I knew almost nothing about plants and landscaping. My mother-in-law taught me a lot about cutting back trees—especially not to be afraid of cutting back overgrowth. Every time I trim back bushes and trees I think of what she told me a long time ago when she compared it to raising kids. She said you have to prune back places hard sometimes, but that would allow the best parts to grow stronger. Isn’t that a great analogy to how kids grow? Like trees, the kids who are never given loving, shaping guidance to grow their best will eventually lose all form and become overgrown without direction.
Last weekend I definitely overcame my fear of trimming back hard when it came to some bamboo I planted about six years ago on the side of our house. For the past three to four years, I’ve been trying to get rid of it. It has proven to be very hard to get rid of. Originally, I planted it because I had this romantic notion from a story I read called The Fern and the Bamboo (posted below) and I loved the look of the wild bamboo that grew along the roadside on the winding roads through wine country in Missouri. The next summer after we’d moved in, I saw some wild bamboo on our way to take the kids to camp. When we went to pick them up, I brought a pot with a little dirt in it and a shovel, and we dug some up by a boat ramp. My Uncle Russell, who has an awesome green thumb, advised me to be careful about planting it. “It will take over and grow everywhere,” he told me. At the time I thought it’d be great, because it was the side of the house with the chimney and a slope that was a pain to mow. I would whack my head on the end of the chimney every time I’d mow that side. Every time. True story.
It looked nice for about a year. After that, it went bamboo crazy.
Those poor ferns—they never stood a chance. Bamboo has a root that reminds me of a dandelion. It grows straight down deep into the soil. Weed and lawn killer has little effect on killing the bamboo, in part because the root is so deep. So you have to dig it out—all the way out. I have worked on digging it out these past years and it comes back every year, albeit a little bit thinner. It went from about ten stalks of bamboo about 10 inches in diameter, to the entire side of the house in about three years. It has spread to my neighbor’s garden and in to the front of our house’s landscaping. It is determined—but then again, so am I!
Since there aren’t any Rent-A-Pandas around to loan me a panda to eat all of it, I continue to dig, pull and compost. And repeat. I’m almost there, with about 5 – 6 feet left in the little corner where it all started. It’s been a lesson learned in a most labor-intensive way. My advice? Never design your landscaping based on inspirational stories and listen to good gardeners’ advice. Oh, and stay away from the bamboo!
The Fern and the Bamboo
One day I decided to quit…I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality…. I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.
“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”
His answer surprised me.
“Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.
In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.
“In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four.
“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.
Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.
But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.
It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.
“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo.. I will never quit on you.
“Don’t compare yourself to others.” He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.
“Your time will come”, God said to me. “You will rise high”
“How high should I rise?” I asked.
“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.
“As high as it can?” I questioned
“Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”
I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me. And He will never give up on you.
Never regret a day in your life.
Good days give you happiness; bad days give you experiences; both are essential to life.