Brendan Moar takes us through the pros and cons of this widely-misunderstood plant.
In China it's known as the friend of the people and in Vietnam it's said to be their brother but here in Austraila, Bamboo is generally considered a pain in the you-know-what!
However, with a little knowledge and a little care, this 'feral weed' will delight and bring texture, beauty and privacy to your garden. Bamboo can be broken down into two categories: the good and the bad.
'Bad' bamboo is known as 'running' bamboo. This kind of bamboo originates from the cold areas of China, Japan and Korea. It sends out long, underground stems (or rhizomes) every year. Each rhizome is capable of producing many new shoots along its length. Left to its own devices, it will spread like wild fire and invade your garden, your neighbours and surrounding streets and parks. It is difficult to eradicate, and has been put on the banned lists of many councils for this reason.
If you are determined to plant running bamboo then it will need to be well contained. Because bamboo doesn't drop any seed, or when it does, it occurs only once a century, confining it to pots is very successful. Confine them in pots lined with concrete, special rubber or other impervious barriers. The depth of the barrier needed varies among species but to be safe it should be at least 1m (3') deep. Galvanised iron pots are not suitable because the rhizomes will eventually find the joins and also because it will rust over time. However, if you want to put running bamboo into the ground, Mr Bamboo recommends their 'Escape Proof' planters. These allow you to grow running bamboo in the ground. You can confine even the tallest bamboo.
'Good' bamboo is known as clumping bamboo Clumping bamboos are shallow-rooted, and most of them are suited to tropical and subtropical climates. Their growth is limited because each rhizome produced develops into a single culm, or hollow jointed stem, located very close to its mother culm. This makes the plant predictable and genetically non-invasive.
Clumping bamboos can safely be planted in the ground, and can grow from two to 30 metres high. Most are densely leafed and can easily be trimmed into shape. It will provide a tall dense green in a restricted root space in a way that other plants can only dream of.
There are plenty of non-invasive bamboo varieties to choose from, so take a second look at bamboo as an option in your garden.
Availability and Cost
Running bamboo is about $45 for a 25cm (10") pot and clumping bamboos start at $40 for a 20cm (8") pot.
Baby Panda Bamboo costs around $10-$12 for a 12.5cm (5") pot and around $18-$20 for a 20cm (8") pot.
Some of the more common running bamboos can be purchased from general nurseries throughout Australia. Clumping bamboos are available from specialist nurseries.
Equipment and Suppliers
18 Myoora Road
Terrey Hills NSW 2084
Ph: (02) 9486 3604
Kristen Martin Landscape Architects
4/151 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: (02) ) 9360 4866
Fax: (02) 9360 4677
For more information about bamboo, a good Australian book is Bamboo Rediscovered by Victor Cusack, 1997 Earth Garden Books, RRP $14.95. To purchase the book, contact Earth Garden Books, RMB 427, Trentham, VIC, 3458.
Phone: (03) 5424 1819
Fax: (03) 5424 1743.