Burke's Backyard

Clumping Bamboo

In the Garden > Others

Clumping Bamboo

Bamboo has a very bad reputation in Australia because in the past, gardeners planted invasive running species such as golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea). Victor Cusack, of Bamboo World at Wadeville in New South Wales, told Don that bamboo does not really deserve its bad image. In fact, in most Asian countries bamboo is treated with reverence. It is the fastest growing, most versatile woody plant in the world, it generates about US$4500 million of the annual global revenue, and it has a myriad of uses

Clumping bamboo has long fibres that are as strong as mild steel. This makes it excellent for building. The young shoots of many species are edible, and the leaves and culms can be used to make cooking and eating utensils, furniture, baskets, rope, lamps and lampshades, roof tiles and musical instruments. Clumping bamboos make great garden feature plants, screens and hedges, and they look spectacular planted in tropical or Asian style gardens.

Types of bamboo

Victor explained that there are two forms of bamboo: running (monopodial) and clumping (sympodial). In most cases a clumping bamboo can be substituted for a running bamboo without any of the problems.

Running bamboos originate from cold areas of China, Japan and Korea. They send out long, underground stems (or rhizomes) every year. Each rhizome is capable of producing many new shoots along its length. Running bamboos spread so successfully that they soon invade areas where they are not wanted, including neighbouring properties. This has led to lawsuits between neighbours, and local government bodies in some areas banning all bamboos.

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. There are hundreds of species of clumping bamboos, including the ones shown in our segment:

Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr'
This plant features golden culms striped with green. Edible shoots are green striped pink. It reaches its full height (10m or 30') only when grown in shade.

Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis'
A dense, cold tolerant bamboo. It has nodding culm tops and no leaves on the lower half.

Gigancochloa atter
An Indonesian species with vigorous, erect culms and large, light green leaves. The young edible shoots are covered in purple/black hairs. It grows about 15m (50') high.

Giant Buddha's Belly (Bambusa vulgaris'Wamin')
This bamboo has spectacular bulging culms and long, narrow green leaves.

Schizostachyum 'Murray Island'
A small, erect bamboo native to Murray Island in the Torres Strait. It forms a dense clump with light green, rough-textured leaves. Best in the tropics and subtropics.

Climate

All are best suited to warmer parts of Australia. Outside these warm areas, particularly in frost prone areas, most clumping bamboos will grow but need a warm microclimate. A severe frost may kill above ground foliage, but in most cases the clump will reshoot in spring.

Further information

Bamboo World
4806 Murwillumbah Road
Wadeville NSW 2474
Phone: (02) 6689 7214
Fax: (02) 6689 7035
Email: bamboo@bambooworld.com.au
Website: www.bambooworld.com.au

Bamboo World is a wholesale nursery that also retails to collectors. Prices range from $20-$150 depending on the rarity of the plant. The nursery only sells clumping species (catalogue available). Plants are grown by tissue culture and are also sold to nurseries around Australia. Nursery hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm; Sunday, 10am-3pm. Closed Saturday.

The gardens shown in this segment were designed by Ken Lamp of Imperial Gardens Landscape, 18 Myoora Road, Terrey Hills, NSW, 2084. Phone: (02) 9450 2455 Fax: (02) 9450 2714 Email: enquiries@imperialgardens.com.au

Further reading

'Bamboo World', by Victor Cusack. Published by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-86417-934-0). Cost $76.55. The book can be purchased at Bamboo World, or at your local bookshop.


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