Bamboo is a plant endemic to a number of countries around the world (not only in Asia. For example, Australia has three endemic varieties). This versatile plant is now grown in many locations to provide buildings, scaffolding, wind breaks, privacy protection, edible shoots and much more.
My suburban home, on an odd shaped block of land, abuts the properties of five different neighbours and increasingly my need for more privacy as I garden, and my need to block out an overgrown and out of control property over one fence line, has forced me to consider my options. I settled on growing non-invasive clumping bamboo.
When the ten plants arrived earlier this week, despite being at least waist height, they looked rather sad. But that is the reality of bamboo in spring time; their leaves dry, turn yellow and eventually drop. When spring time creates luscious forests of weeds and wonderful spring vegetables and more elsewhere, the bamboo looks its worst.
The planting has been a collaborative work of many, for which I am immensely grateful. Gary brought his jackhammer and broke up concrete, and used his strength with a crowbar to remove rocks that were otherwise firmly attached to the ground. Geoff, owner of business Bamboo Van Diemen, delivered 10 pots of waist high bamboo clumps. Tiger brought bales of seasoned barley straw to be used as mulch. June brought bags and bags of mushroom compost. Roscoe dropped off 6 bags of good sheep manure. I lifted extensive paving, removed soil and rocks, marked with fluorescent paint the location for the bamboo planting and the expected extent of their roots, dug out two camellia bushes, then lifted a small fig tree which has now been relocated elsewhere in the garden.
Then fellow Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens volunteers from the Food Garden, Neil and Sandra, came to form a working bee. More rocks were prised from the soil, roots were cut and removed, planting sites were dug, black plastic sheeting hidden under the soil was cut away and rubbished, soil was transported to the planting sites where necessary, compost was mixed through the soil, each pot of bamboo was soaked in a diluted seaweed solution, and then placed to determine the best position.
The ‘before’ shots:
The ‘during’ shots:
The ‘after’ shots:
Finally a hole was dug, the bamboo squeezed from the pot, and planted. Right now the stalks are so thin, so fine that they do not yet make a statement. By the end of summer I believe these canes will have doubled in height, however I do not know when the culms thicken.
After three and half hours with the equivalent of two and a half people (I was making mugs of tea and organising lunch etc for some of the time), the plants were in. Rain is expected over the next few days so that will settle the soil. Then next week, a sprinkling of sheep manure, thick layers of wet newspaper, maybe wet cardboard and finally deep straw will be mulched around each of the ten plants.
I feel sure this is only the start of my journey to understand and live with bamboo growing in my garden. Years ago when I lived in Darwin, I built a Japanese inspired garden with bamboo fence (bamboo cut from free range growing bamboo south of Darwin, tied together and gorgeous with its natural glossy green colouring), a large ‘honourable’ rock that was trucked in and almost needed a forklift to move, and a raked gravel ‘pond’. I have no inclination to create another such peaceful garden. Rather, in a few years’ time I expect to cut culms and create new fences covering old fences, and use some stalks as garden stakes. Not to forget that some new shoots will be incorporated into meals for the table.
And all the while my privacy will be restored.
Bonuses for the day: the wheelbarrow tyres were pumped up courtesy of Sandra and her equipment, and the garden edges in the lower plot were meticulously cleared of weeds and more by Neil. Hearty thanks.