In China one may eat bamboo with bamboo chopsticks sitting in a bamboo chair before a bamboo table in a bamboo house. One may travel in comfort lying on a bamboo mat under a woven screen of bamboo while a boatman pushes his craft along with the aid of a bamboo pole, shouting or whistling now and then for a wind to come and fill the great bamboo sail. In the streets coolies stride by with bamboo carrying-poles supporting bamboo pails filled with water, swerving to avoid the bamboo sedan chairs in which the wealthy citizens ride. Books might be written to describe the innumerable articles made from the bamboo. It is indeed the plant of a thousand uses. Those who know it organic bamboo cooking utensils best think not of its utility but of its beauty as a plant, and of the fascination of watching it grow! It, truly enough, is a proletariat, but in these days when the world trend is toward democracy even members of the grass family, to which it belongs, may hope to find a place in our most select garden circles. The bamboo certainly stands head and shoulders above all other grasses. Some species lift their plumes a hundred feet into the air on stems from eight to twelve inches in diameter. More than two hundred species are known. America has about seventy of them, while five grow in Africa. Bamboo is usually considered a tropical plant, for many varieties thrive best in the monsoon regions of Asia. There are a number, however, that can be successfully grown in temperate climates, even where the temperature drops to zero during the winter. America is just beginning to discover the possibilities of bamboo as an ornamental plant. Some might object that this oriental plant would be out of harmony and out of place in a western garden. But East and West have already met and mingled in horticulture. We think of chrysanthemums, spireas, lilacs, hollyhocks and forsythia as being “one hundred percent American”, because they grew in our grandmothers' gardens. Yet all of these old favorites boast of an Asiatic origin. Discriminating gardeners who have introduced the bamboo find it an ideal background for flowers, as well as a plant having a perennial charm of its own. During the winter months when green things are at a premium the bamboo retains its leaves. Sometimes under the great weight of snow the plumes sweep the ground but they manage to raise themselves again with grass-like flexibility. After a sleet storm every leaf is encased in crystal and the touch of the sun sends millions of fragmentary rainbows flashing out. Each plant is a fountain of color. The slightest wind starts a brittle tinkling, resembling the sound of the spirit bells that hang from temple roofs. Kuo Shi, master-artist and critic during the Sung Period in China, writes, “He that studies bamboo painting should take one bamboo branch and cast its shadow on a moonlight night upon a white wall.”
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