Posts Tagged ‘bamboo’

Best varieties of bamboo

After some 10 or 20 thousand years of cultivation, bamboo’s popularity may in fact be at an all-time high. Of course, 10,000 years ago, there were a lot fewer people around to exchange gardening tips. But it’s also true that more and more people today are recognizing bamboo for its utility, versatility, aesthetic beauty, and all-around sense of good joo-joo. Though it’s been revered in the Far East for these same qualities for many thousands of years, it’s taken a few extra centuries for this thing of wonder to reach the west and spread like wildfire — not unlike a few other things I can think of.  Yoga and sushi quickly come to mind.

As if sorting through the options of bamboo toothbrushes and bamboo towels weren’t challenging enough, consider now that if you’re looking to plant a few varieties of bamboo in your garden, you’ll have between 1-2,000 species to choose from. Even the bamboo specialists can’t agree on the actual number of bamboo breeds. But no need to split hairs over speciation. Today we’d like to help you narrow it down to the 10 best bamboo varieties for your garden.

Two Types of Bamboo

Some people like to say that there are types of bamboo: runners and clumpers. Of course, that’s a sweeping generalization, because, like I said, there are really something like 1-2,000 species of bamboo. Not only that, but there are also slow runners and aggressive clumpers, and a number of other factors that could affect the growth habit of your bamboo. Having said that, this still remains the simplest way to think of bamboos.

RUNNERS

Most bamboos are runners, meaning that they send out rhizome roots racing underground in pursuit of moisture and elbow room. If you’re looking to plant a privacy hedge that will spread quickly along a fence line, or you just enjoy watching a voracious plant as it wields its dominion over the landscape, then this is the way to go. They also tend to be the easiest to find, especially at non-specialist nurseries, because they do propagate so easily.

But be careful, and think before you plant. The old adage about bamboo says that, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.” In other words, you might not think it’s a runner after the first year, but by the third or forth year, you almost certainly will, and so will your neighbors.

Running bamboos have no respect for property lines. If the neighbor to the one side is regularly sprinkling his perfectly manicured lawn, or the neighbor on the other side is constantly irrigating her prize-winning rose bushes, it won’t take long (especially in a dry place like California) for those eager rhizomes to sniff out those delicious water sources and wreak havoc on the roses, the lawn, the vegetable patch, the herb garden, and pretty much everything in sight. There goes the neighborhood!

So how do you avoid this un-neighborly catastrophe? Here are a few options:

Allow your running bamboo plenty of room to spread. If you’re gardening in a tightly-squeezed suburban subdivision, then you probably will not have plenty of room. If you’re trying to fill out and green up some vacant acreage, then that’s more like it. Keep you bamboo well-contained. There are a number of ways to do this, ranging from a simple solution like planting into a old wine barrel (or half barrel) to burying any manner of rhizome barrier into the ground. Just remember, with time and pressure, there’s almost nothing that stop those roots from spreading. So whatever you put into the ground, plant it thick and deep. (Check out our tips on bamboo containment.) Get your hands dirty and prune your bamboo regularly. That means not only trimming back the shoots, but going underground and cutting back those vigorous roots. Look for smaller and slower running bamboos, like some of the ground cover varieties. But keep an eye on them. Sometimes they look sleepy on the surface, even while the roots are constructing an invisible empire underground. Find some clumping bamboo and plant those instead.

The fact is, many of the most interesting and attractive bamboo species are runners. They also tend to be less expensive and easier to find in nurseries. So now that you’ve been warned, here are a few great bamboo varieties to look for.

Phyllostachys vivax

You’ll definitely want to allow some extra space for this tremendous timber bamboo that easily reaches 20 to 50 feet in height, with culms up to 4 or 5 inches in diameter. As you can imagine, it will also have a pretty massive footprint. But for anyone who’s got the space for it, this majestic grass could be a prized specimen and the envy of bamboo enthusiasts all around.

I planted one of these in my suburban backyard in San Luis Obispo, and kept it in a 15 gallon pot for fear of it overtaking the neighborhood. After 5 or 6 years it never looked unhealthy, but it sure never reached the kind of stature described above. It really needs room to spread out.

Semiarundinaria fastuosa

Another very impressive variety, its regal appearance has earned this one the nickname of “Temple Bamboo”, which also happens to be FAR easier to pronounce! This bamboo can get to be 20 or 30 feet in height, but its richly colored culms don’t grown much larger than an inch or so in diameter.

I also planted one of these in a 15 gallon container, but it didn’t take long to break out and proliferate around the yard. But with such handsome shoots, I just couldn’t bring myself to uproot them. This really is a beautiful species of bamboo.

Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo)

The distinctively dark brown (not quite black) shoots make this one of the most popular strains of bamboo, and any nursery that sells bamboo is likely to have some of this on hand. As the plant matures, the dark color of the culms grows richer, making for a very attractive contrast against the bright green leaves.

Pseudosasa japonica (arrow bamboo)

Also quite popular, arrow bamboo earned its name from its long, strong, straight poles, which Samurai warriors used to make arrows. Today it’s a great choice for planting in shady corners of the garden. Also, though technically classified as a runner, it has a far more restrained growth habit than most bamboos of that class. The broad green leaves make this a very vibrant and attractive specimen.

Dwarf Green Stripe

One of the few bamboos that can be cultivated as a ground cover, this one makes an excellent accent alongside larger bamboo varieties, around Japanese pines, and in any sort of Asian themed garden setting. Its compact size also makes it much easier to contain, despite its being a runner. Just keep an eye on those roots!

 

CLUMPERS

While the most impressive varieties of bamboo tend to be runners, the conscientious gardener is always on the look out for a good breed of clumping bamboo. They might not always display the awesome meter-a-day growth of some fabled bamboos of the tropics, or the massive culms that make you want to reach out your arms for a bear hug, but they can lend an exotic charm to any small scale zen oasis or Japanese garden.

Now before you rush over to Home Depot, or your nearest box store discount nursery, and start asking sales clerks for their recommendations on clumping bamboos, keep in mind that very few people — nursery employees included — can reliably distinguish a runner from a clumper. And as long as clumpers remain more expensive, more sought after, and harder to come by, it’s easy to imagine how unreliable certain sales people could be.

With that in mind, I’d like to recommend a couple of my favorite bamboo nurseries in California: Bamboo Sourcery in Sebastopol and Bamboo Giant near Santa Cruz. These guys really know their bamboo. But if you want my opinion, here are a few of my favorite clumpers.

Bambusa oldhamii

An old favorite, Oldhamii is said to be the most widely grown variety of bamboo in all of the United States. You might say it’s an old standard. Native to Taiwan, it does have a preference for the tropical climes and is not very cold-hardy. But with shoots reaching up to 60 feet or more (under ideal conditions) and growing up to about 4 inches in diameter, it’s certainly an impressive specimen, particularly for a clumper. You’d have to agree, it’s an oldie but a goodie!

Otatea acuminata (Mexican Weeping Bamboo)

With its slender stalks and delicate, wispy leaves, this delightfully compact specimen looks good in nearly any garden. All it needs is a gentle breeze to make it really come alive. It also prefers warmer climates. I grew some in a cool, coastal climate, and it always looked happy; it just never grew very big.

Buddha’s Belly (subspecies of Bambusa vulgaris)

With a catchy named derived from the bulbous shape of its internodes, Buddha’s Belly is one of the easiest species to recognize and one of the largest varieties of clumping bamboo. Whatever it lacks in straight and narrow poise, it more than makes up for with portly character. This subtropical variety also does better in the warmer zones.

Alfonse Karr

Exquisitely elegant, this variety is easy to recognize with its green and yellow racing stripes. Even amidst a great collection of bamboos, this one is sure to stand out. In ideal conditions, it can get up to 20 feet, and the culms grow to about 1 inch in diameter.

Himalayacalamus hookerianus (Himalayan Blue)

The richly colored, powdery blue culms give this bamboo an especially attractive appearance. Indigenous to the mountains of China, it also does better in warmer and subtropical regions. But it grows especially well around ponds and in containers. Culinary tip: fresh shoots of the Himalayan Blue are edible are said to be quite tasty. Anyone for stir fry?

I hope you’ve found these suggestions helpful. If you have a favorite bamboo that we were unable to include in this short list, go ahead and let us know in the comments section. Meanwhile, happy gardening!

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Bamboo Haiku

Running a business is hard work, but when you have a product you believe in and clientele you can genuinely respect, and who genuinely respect you, then it is truly a labor of love. Even so, it’s very important to make time for diversions. That why I set aside a little time for bamboo haiku, combining two of my favorite asian contributions to civilization.

The multifaceted grass and the 17-syllable poetry seem to go hand-in-hand. They both soothe the soul and inspire the heart, helping to release the mind from the fetters of the daily grind. They take you back to nature and, at their best, they aim to elevate one’s consciousness to a higher plane.

Some prefer chair yoga and micro meditation, but whatever it takes to break up the monotony of the work day and keep your spirit grounded, I say go to it!

And perhaps most important of all, it’s essential to keep a sense of humor in all of your endeavors.

Bamboo Sporks be with you

Last night we took the kids down to the beach for an end-of-summer picnic, and picnics always remind me of how much I love my reusable bamboo Spork. So I figured, what better time than now to honor and reflect on one of our all time coolest products.

So simple, so functional, and so aesthetically pleasing, the reusable Spork is the epitome of sustainable simplicity. Crafted from bamboo scraps at the Bambu® factory where so many of our bamboo kitchenwares are produced, each Spork rescues a sliver of bamboo from the waste heap, and then, over the course of its long life, goes on to eliminate the need for thousands of disposable plastic utensils. With just a few basic tools, the individual scraps of bamboo are readily shaped into Sporks — no glues or wood stains required.

I always keep a Spork behind my desk here Bambu Batu, and believe it or not I’ve been using the same one for about 5 years now. And the thing is good as new. Whether I’m picking up lunch from one of our cafe neighbors or bringing in some snacks from home, my trustee Spork is always here, ready to get the job done. And it didn’t take long at all to train the cafe staff NOT to put the usual plastic forks and spoons into my take-out lunch.

If you need to improve your workplace utensils, or want to be prepared on your next picnic, road trip, or backpacking excursion, we have several options to meet your needs. For the serious Spork enthusiast, check out the Spork n Cork (a bamboo Spork in a stylish cork carrying case). Or step it up a notch with the To-Go Ware utensil set, comes complete with bamboo fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks, in a handy case with velcro closure and carabiner clip.

To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set

Bamboo Spork and cork carrying case

 

 

 

Lush, green, and hardy, bamboo sets the stage for the perfect garden getaway. When planted in thickets, the grass forms walls that provide privacy and quiet. When in clumps, bamboo is an excellent highlight to just about any backyard.

You already know who’s got the best selection of bamboo clothing and textiles on the planet, but Paso Bamboo Farm and  Nursery is the only place on the Central Coast where you will find timber and exotic bamboos ready to be planted in your yard! The Nursery carries thirteen different species that tolerate extreme temperatures and are available in 5, 15, and 25 gallon containers, or can be dug to order. The staff is also able to create bamboo installations for home and business.

In addition to growing the their beautiful specimens of bamboo, the Nursery holds educational talks throughout the county. The owners love to inform the public as to the remarkable qualities of the plant. Easy to maintain, bamboo is an attractive way to sequester carbon and filter the air. Able to harvested for  building material, craft, or textiles, the giant green stalks are as practical as they are ornamental.

Interested green thumbs are encouraged to visit the Paso Bamboo Farm and Nursery at 5590 North River Road in Paso Robles. For more information, head over to their official site and discover a world of versatile, verdant bamboo!

Bamboo cork boards

If bamboo is an environmentally friendly superhero, then cork must be its perfect sidekick. Case in point: the bamboo and cork hybrid cutting board pictured above. Sustainable cork, which is used in the boards, wallets, cases, and containers here at Bambu Batu, is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) which is endemic to Europe and and Northwest Africa. Most of it is grown in Spain, Portugal and Italy. Light, buoyant and flexible, it is also water resistant and easy to clean. The material is composed of suberin, which allows it to be one of the most versatile natural substances in the world. Once the trees reach 25 years of age, the bark is stripped and let to rest for nine years.

All of our cork products hail from the company, Bambu Home. The business was founded as part of an effort to take advantage of bamboo and resources native to China and bring them to the United States in 2003. Bambu Home’s extensive line of bamboo kitchenwares are fashioned from certified organic bamboo, and hand-crafted in accordance with the highest standards of fair labor practices. Praised as the “new bamboo”, cork’s soft stain-resistant nature has made it an attractive choice to accompany the elegant bamboo products. Bambu Home uses cork that is EU and US CPSC-compliant and machine-washable, and has no dyes, heavy metals, phthalates or PVC. We are proud to carry such an attractive, green selection of bamboo and cork here at Bambu Batu!

Ban jhankri masks bring long life and good fortune.

In between the spiritual and physical realm walks the shaman, a figure that is able to communicate with both the material and ethereal. The figure of the ban jhankri, or “forest shaman”, comes from Nepal. Described by the indigenous folk as small, golden and hairy, they are master healers and those who chose human shamans to continue their work. Novices are typically young males who are then abducted to live and study in caves. They are later returned to their communities, hours or days after their disappearance. After their kidnapping, the acolytes find a human guru who helps them to initiate trances and communication with the ban jhankri.

The faces of the ban jhankri are carved out of the base of bamboo stalks where the “hair” is represented by the roots. Many of these representations are now being produced for sale in Thailand where artisans hand-carve the visages of the forest spirits. Said to be good luck and excellent feng shui, the rich earth tones and peaceful expressions bring a little of nature’s energy into the home.

Toyota was one of the first major manufacturers to embrace hybrid technology with their well-known Prius model. Now they are taking the idea of sustainability and green engineering one step further with the introduction of their ME.WE concept car. The sporty, compact vehicle uses a tubular aluminum frame and its panels are composed of polypropylene plastic. The body is completely recyclable, and at 1,653 lbs, very lightweight. The design allows the panels to turn the car from a sedan into a convertible, and an extendable rear deck can transform the configuration into a tiny pickup truck. The all-electric car is powered by four in-wheel motors and a lithium-ion battery mounted under the floor.

What really gets our knocks our viscose socks off is that almost the entire interior is covered in silky soft bamboo! In collaboration with French designer Jean Marie-Massaud, the concept was revealed at a Paris event this week. Sadly, the maker has no intention of mass-producing the car. OK fine, but if you’re feeling generous, I know a hard-working bamboo shopkeeper in San Luis Obispo who could use a company car…

After a long day in the salt mines, it is a great relief to return to a warm, comfortable, and beautiful living space. To keep your eyes happy, body relaxed, and eyes excited, take a look at New York-based designer Meredith Goodwin’s amazing bamboo furniture! The KURV coffee table (pictured above) is a modernist appointment that is incredibly held together by tension alone. The body is composed of bamboo plywood that is certified under the 6.0 Section of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resource Point System. Designed with only a few connections, the KURV is available to be ordered and shipped flat, and can be easily assembled at home.

Equally beautiful is Goodwin’s HALO LED-lit dining room table. Also constructed using bamboo, the entire piece is lit by small, energy-efficient bulbs to create a little bit of modernist mood lighting for your living room. Like the KURV, all pieces arrive flat-packed, ready to be assembled for a much more environmentally friendly piece than you could find at particle-board loving IKEA.

Nothing says ‘relaxation’ like a good, long soak in a bathtub. Those looking for a little sustainable serenity may enjoy the Air Bubble Massage Bathtub from Xianning Yanshan Bamboo Industry, Co. Ltd.  Equipped with a pillow, faucet, hand shower, jets, massage device, and chair, the luxurious tub is made completely out of water-tight bamboo. Sustainable and possessing a low-carbon footprint, the hearty grass makes a warm, attractive alternative to porcelain or tile. The surface is treated with a nanometer level oxide compound material that deodorizes, sterilizes, and releases anions into the air. Adhering to the standards of the Ergonomics Association, the tubs also come in barrel and portable models.

Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative

Planting and harvesting bamboo is not only good for the environment, but can also be beneficial to the community that supports its cultivation. Founded in 2003, the Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative is a biodynamic and sustainable bamboo nursery on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. Certified organic by Stellar Certification Services, the company is home to a number of bamboo species as well as tropical hardwood. They offer a range of timber bamboo including black bamboo in diameters from one to four inches. A plant nursery grows hedging bamboos and landscape vegetation for the garden. Whispering Winds also sells kit structures that use bamboo to create sheds, shade structures, carports, caddies, and even housing for bee hives.

As a result of the Ola Honua mission, the employees at Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative purchased the business from the original owners, turning it into a cooperative. Apprenticeships are offered on site, and the employees are all dedicated to replanting and restoring native flora on the plantation. With the notions of community engagement and social responsibility in mind, Whispering Winds provides its workers with fair wages as well as affordable housing for the people of Kipahulu.

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