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Thick bamboo part of former Brenau garden
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Bamboo, some of it more than half foot in diameter and tall as a three-story building, grows tucked away in a corner of the Brenau University campus in Gainesville.

It apparently has been thriving for more than 75 years, forgotten or unnoticed by many students and staff. A couple of years ago, Louise Bauck, a biology teacher, was walking her dogs near the school's tennis courts and noticed the extensive stand of timber bamboo, not your normal everyday fishing-pole kind. It was a treasure to her, a cave-like forest with an almost magical quality.

Some of her biology students helped her clean it up, and classes have been using what students labeled "The Bamboo Forest" as sort of an outdoor laboratory for a section on botany. The students' Eco-Friends Club posted a sign to identify it, helps maintain and protect it and discourages any neglect or abuse.

Some Brenau officials had been aware of the bamboo grove, but hadn't paid it much attention. It has been hidden from view and access by construction debris and overgrown foliage.

Its origin probably dates to the 1920s when a landscape architect, Shogo Joseph Myaida, designed and built several Japanese features on the campus. A native of Japan, Myaida came to the United States to study his profession and became an American citizen. Brenau hired him in 1922-23 to improve its campus. He went on to become a nationally known landscape architect and designed Japanese gardens for several prominent people.

Among improvements he made in the area of the present Brenau tennis courts and athletic field were a small lake and such additions as a pagoda, bridge, lanterns and arch. The lake, known as Lake Takeda, but sometimes called Little Brenau Lake, became the centerpiece of Camp Takeda, a summer camp for girls, which is well remembered and was well attended by local girls as well as others from all over the Southeast.

The Takeda name, however, actually came from Aya Takeda, a beloved Japanese student who attended Brenau in the early 1900s.

When the architect Myaida was at Brenau, Dr. Haywood Pearce was building a new home on Perry Street, a block off the main campus. He hired Myaida to design and build a Japanese garden behind his home. The bamboo apparently was a part of that garden, which was adjacent to what became Camp Takeda.

Larry Andrews, who retired as Brenau's vice president of administrative services, lived in the former Pearce home when he joined the school's staff. It has since been torn down. Andrews said the bamboo grove already was overgrown and neglected by then. As he hacked his way through, he found wisteria, switchcane and jonquils that apparently were part of the Japanese garden.

A crumbling concrete wall is visible inside the bamboo trees. Andrews said it probably was part of the terracing that led down from the back of the house.

Brenau used some of the bamboo as decorations in one of its Hawaiian-themed Galas some time back, he said.

Debbie Thompson, director of Greek Life and Campus Traditions at Brenau, has considerable material on Camp Takeda and the architect Myaida in the school's archives. But none of it mentions the bamboo forest. However, she agrees with Andrews that it probably was a part of Pearce's Japanese garden.

There is another patch of the bamboo on the other side of the athletic fields. Louise Bauch said some of it is an invasive type, unlike the timber bamboo.

Inside the "forest" the sturdy green stalks reach 50 feet or more. Leaves at their tops provide a filter from the sun that casts an eerie glow through the hundreds of green, almost stove-pipe-sized trunks.

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Anne Amerson's book, "Dahlonega's Gold," subject of last Sunday's column, is on sale in the gift shop at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University, 322 Academy St., Gainesville.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays.