Add a Little Silk
Hopefully our local 9th graders will think that their cafeteria is a bit more beautiful and serene with the indoor planter beds now filled with tall green bamboo. That was my goal anyway. The indoor garden at our local high school was an out-of-the-ordinary project for me since as an avid gardener, Master Gardener and flower enthusiast, I’m used to working with live plants. The plants I just installed are made of silk. Yes. Silk. I feel weird even typing the word ‘silk.’ And I feel slightly guilty somehow, although I know silk was the way to go for any number of practical reasons: It looks good for a long time, it’s maintenance-free, it doesn’t need watered; it can stand a little roughhousing.
It all started innocently enough. I have attended many meetings and fundraisers held in our local high school’s 9th grade cafeteria. It has greenhouse-style windows along two walls and planter boxes run their length. . .like 95 feet long on one side and half again that long on the “short” side. It’s a lot of planting length, but the width and depth are pretty shallow, making it a challenge to grow much of anything there. To prove my point, every time I was in that room the beds were filled with dead or dying plants, bugs flew around and fungus was visible. It wasn’t attractive and it wasn’t healthy.
One evening instead of paying attention to the meeting I started to think seriously about redoing the planter boxes. Before the night’s speaker had concluded I had jotted down some ideas and decided to approach the principal and Board of Ed Buildings crew with some ideas. You know, beautiful donated plants, perhaps purchased-at-cost drip irrigation to keep the plants alive, mulch. I was thinking of a “bullet-proof” design, something that could withstand the searing sun, the lack of regular watering. I thought about a desert garden. I thought about running bamboo. Can you picture the possibilities?
I talked with some of my Magnificent Seven friends about it and prepared a short spiel. I emailed the principal, volunteering my time and talent. No response. I persisted. For three months. By last September everyone was on board and we met. As I pitched my idea of planting running bamboo – simple, low maintenance, green, and pretty – I made an offhand joke about how well silk bamboo would hold up to the rigors of the environment. They jumped on that idea like a cat on a fly. The head of Food Services, who had been worried about allergens and bugs, thought it was a great idea. The head of Buildings, realizing the low maintenance aspect, chimed in his agreement. The principal thought it was a great idea too. They stared at me. Completely taken aback that they had taken my joke seriously I said I’d research silk bamboo, agreeing to do it only if I could find silk that looked real.
Fast forward another couple of months for research, leg work, phone calls, photo samples, actual samples, approvals and the rest of my life. By November we had decided on the silk bamboo, ordered it, took delivery and then everyone got busy with Christmas vacation, the annual school visits our town has and the like. Finally, just two weeks ago we got together, opened the boxes, fluffed the bamboo, placed the clusters in the beds, spread the unfrozen mulch around nicely and chopped the frozen solid mulch into manageable chunks to be fluffed after it had thawed!
That night I attended a fundraiser in the cafeteria. And I found out you can fool most of the people most of the time. Since some of the setup crew for the fundraiser had seen me finishing the project, they took the time when they saw me later that evening to comment on the project. I heard others who noticed the bamboo say how nice it looked. I am happy (!!) to say that no one – that’s right, no one – noticed the bamboo is silk. Whew!