P71230Just because it ‘can’ be grown as a houseplant does not meant that it ‘should’ be. That is a lesson that Brent and I never learned in college. He and I were roommates in the dorms at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, which, as you can imagine, was a problem. Our room on the top floor of Fremont Hall was known as the Jungle Room. It was so stuffed full of weird houseplants, as well as a few plants that had no business inside. We had a blue gum eucalyptus bent up against the ceiling, an espaliered Southern magnolia, a Monterey cypress, and a herd of camellias that we rescued from a compost pile on campus.

After college, our own homes were no better. Because my dining room was rather small, Brent gave me tall weeping figs that had unobtrusively bare trunks down low, and plenty of fluffy foliage pressed up against the ceiling; a technique we did not quite perfect with our Jungle Room blue gum. I had a giant yucca in the guest suite, a redwood in my bedroom, king palms in the parlor, and a lemon gum eucalyptus over my desk in the office. The bathroom was the worst, with pothos and Algerian ivy hanging over the shower curtain, and billbergias up over the shower. A pair of small birds nested in the billbergias, and before I realized that they were there and evicted them, they started a family!

At least Brent kept most of his plants outside where they belong. The staghorn ferns grab onto the walls when they get the chance. Wisteria vines grab onto anything else. The flame vine climbed up the chimney (appropriately), and before Brent knew it, had sneakily spread to the opposite side of the parapet roof! Then there was the giant timber bamboo. Yes, that is what I said; giant timber bamboo. I know what you are thinking right now, so there is no need to say it.

There is a narrow space between north side of Brent’s home and the concrete driveway next door. It is almost three feet wide. Brent though that if he planted the bamboo there, it would not get to the other side of the driveway. He was actually correct.

Did I ever mention how vain Brent is? Well, that is another topic for another time. I will say for now that he has more clothes than his teenaged daughter Grace. A lot more. They do not all fit in his big closet. He hangs some of his longer coats that he does not need very often in Grace’s much smaller closet. One day, he was reaching around the clutter that is common in a teenaged girl’s room, and groping for one of his coats in Grace’s closet, when he grabbed a hold of something that should not have been there. He was not certain what it was at first, but when he found his coat and pulled it out, a few dried bamboo leaves came with it and fell onto the floor!

The bamboo did not even try to go under the neighbor’s driveway. Instead, it went under the foundation of the house. Where it came up, it had nowhere to go, so somehow weaseled in next to a water pipe, and followed it up behind the bathroom washbasin. Once inside, it somehow weaseled past a valve access panel behind Grace’s closet, and straight up to the ceiling. What is even funnier is that Grace knew it was there, but figured that it was just another one of Brent’s crazy landscaping ideas!

Just in case you are wondering, giant timber bamboo is a very bad houseplant!

The bamboo is gone now. It got so tall that the wind would blow it against the terracotta tiles on top of the parapet wall. Also, the foliar litter was too messy on the parapet roof and the neighbor’s driveway. It did not contribute much to the landscape anyway, and shaded only a driveway that is seldom used.

36 thoughts on “Very Bad Houseplants

  1. Great story. It is good to read about people who are even crazier than I am. Even I wouldn’t try a Monterey Pine or a Redwood inside. But then I have a garden. I suppose without an outside space you must do what you can.

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    1. Perhaps I should write about the livestock too. Some of it was pretty comical. All of the windows stayed open at my house for most of the year, so there were quite a few birds and a squirrel that would not leave. I just really hated screens! It is just something that I deal with.

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  2. I can easily believe that. You might remember my blogs about me fighting to get rid of my running bamboo this past summer. I called it the summer from hell. Now I’ll wait to see if any still shoots up in the spring for one last hurrah. It couldn’t have much strength left. I hope……….

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      1. Oh! I used to grow bamboo at the farm. It certainly was not my idea. It was one of those get rich quick schemes, but there is a reason that bamboo is as expensive as it is. It grows like a weed in the ground, but is not so easy to grow in cans!

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  3. Oh Tony! This was the best story! I can just imagine a Jumanji looking dorm room. My husband Tim (did you meet him at your sisters wedding long ago?) loves growing flowers etc. in fact thinking of getting a greenhouse as he’s taking over the house. Amazing story about the bamboo. He’s always warned me about it. So beautiful and so destructive. Happy holidays Tony! Hope all is well!

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    1. ! I never thought of it as Jumanji! That is classic! Brent revers to his bungalow home as the ‘Jungalow’. You might have seen it or parts of the garden in Sunset magazine. He brags about having more specie in his 5,000 square foot parcel than I had on ten acres. Actually, he has more specie than the we had at the farm on 140 acres! Although we grow many different cultivars, most are within just a few specie of rhododendron.


  4. Weirdly, I really don’t like plants in the house. I have several of them in at the moment (due to temperatures in the ’20s over the next few days), but for some reasons, they annoy me. Hmmm. As for some of the plants you mention as house decor, well, I just can’t get my head around that!

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    1. Well, many of my old houseplants were from the Los Angeles regions, and some could not take even the mild frost here, so they lived inside, and I left them all year. Others were there just because there were not many trees outside of that particular home.


    1. Our dorm room had basic furniture. We each had a chest of drawers, which we put underneath my elevated bed to get more room. Much of the foliage was up near the ceiling, out of our way. It was quite excellent.


  5. Wow! You’re right – I did find that post amusing, but good lord – that’s the worst bamboo story I’ve heard to date! I’m sure, in the end, it was a very costly plant experiment…. yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t too costly. The bamboo outside was supposed to get removed anyway, so was just removed a bit earlier than planned. What was in the closet was just removed. There are likely dead stolons under the house, but there are probably not enough to be a problem. Brent always has me fix his stupid problems when I am there, but I can not fit through the hatch to get under the house. (The patio is elevated around it now.)

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      1. Haha – I have a friend like you for things I can’t handle too. He is coming today (again) to help me with some heavy yardwork. The bamboo removal is done though – thankfully!

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      2. Brent and I are quite opposite. Fortunately, he can hire others to do what he will not do around the home. I just fill in for a few odd jobs that there is not a category for.


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