Connect with us

Thai Life

Bamboozled by bamboo

Published

 on 

PHUKET: A reader recently asked Normita Thongtham, who writes a Sunday gardening column for a national daily, if her earlier suggestion about making a living fence of bamboo “planted six to eight meters apart was a typographical error.”

The writer’s answer was “no.” And the reason? Because bamboo (bambusa) grows very fast, and the space between the individual plants is rapidly colonized by offshoots. Of course you can put the plants closer together, but remember that bamboo not only forms a dense mass of roots, but that it is, in any case, usually sold as a bagged clump, which already contains interwoven rhizomes.

Odd, when you think of what bamboo is like above ground: a gigantic tropical grass with smooth, cylindrical, ramrod straight canes that can grow, according to the variety, from fifteen to eighty feet tall; and possessed of luminous foliage so elegant it has for centuries been obsessively painted by oriental master artists.

That, in a nutshell, is both bamboo’s glory and its imperfection as a garden specimen. It makes a vivid and distinctively tropical screen, but it will not let much else grow beneath it, so rapacious is its capacity to spread its roots.

There are a couple of further points for the gardener to consider. Bamboo does drop its leaves frequently: this habit means that the unsightly dead shards that collect around the plants will need to be swept up at regular intervals.

Moreover, bamboo loves plenty of water. Around the streets of Phuket, I see screens of mature bamboo, which are bleaching and dying back in the current dry season. But those cavils should not amount to a rejection slip. It is just that bamboo is not suitable for every garden, especially small-scale ones.

Nonetheless, the range of available species is considerable.

Vulgaris, as its name implies, is the commonest form. It is also the giant of the family with dark green canes up to twenty five meters tall and nine inches thick.

More often grown commercially, or taken indiscriminately from the wild, it is a feature of the Thai urban-scape both as a structural material for scaffolding, and as a component in almost everything from chairs or permanent screens to summer houses. A more decorative cultivar, “aureo variegata“, has canes striped with yellow and green. The tips of its huge shoots, sliced thin, are used in curries and soups.

Better suited to your garden is ventricosa, also known as “Buddha’s belly”. The apt name comes from the prominent swelling that develops between each joint or leaf node. These intervals are quite short, thereby giving the stem a knobbly, even bead-like appearance. A native of China, it is unlikely to grow more than a few meters tall in Phuket. Distinctive but maybe not to everyone’s taste, its somewhat grotesque appearance looks impressive when grown as a clump in a prominent location.

Most garden varieties derive from bambusa multiplex, which has masses of crowded stems, no more than 3 meters across at the base. The leaves are smaller than those of entricosa. Garden centers may stock “Alphonse Carr”, which has green and gold stems forming a broad-headed clump of foliage.

“Fernleaf ” is perhaps the most distinctive, with slender, arching stems and dainty, fern-like foliage. Moreover, it does not exceed ten feet in height. Sulphurea has golden canes, which nicely complement the bright green foliage.

Propagation of all bamboos is normally done by offsets, consisting of one fully grown and hardened stem, excised where its rhizome segment branches from an older rhizome. Put the offset in soil, flood with water, and apply fertilizer as soon as new growth shows.

Hey presto!

Tip of the week: Sterilized soil
I was recently asked if I knew where to obtain sterilized soil in Phuket. I know of no such source, though the compost sold in white fabric bags may be already heat-treated. Sterilization is a precautionary process: it destroys harmful fungi, bacteria, viruses or nematodes. Plants have their own defense against such micro-organisms, but seeds and cuttings are especially vulnerable.

The simplest way to sterilize soil is to heat friable and moistened earth in a non-metallic container in a microwave for a couple of minutes. Another more laborious method, is to bake soil in a conventional oven at 200 degrees centigrade for at least two hours. Commercial growers deploy pressurized steam systems, but in a hot climate such as Phuket’s, you can use double layers of plastic sheeting, which are laid over prepared and moistened ground, held down with stones and left for eight weeks.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email the author here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand27 mins ago

Thailand News Today | Thais more relaxed about Covid-19

Bangkok31 mins ago

‘Win’ motorbike taxi drivers protest against GrabBike in Bangkok, Thailand

World34 mins ago

China not cod-ing about its zero Covid policy as it tests fish

Sponsored1 day ago

Super luxury villas in Phuket with breathtaking ocean views

Travel35 mins ago

Affordable but stylish hotels in Koh Samui for your next holiday

Thailand55 mins ago

Female soldier seeks help after being abused by senator’s wife

Crime2 hours ago

2 fake monks make up to 40k baht per day scamming villagers in northern Thailand

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Crime3 hours ago

Man stabs wife’s secret lover to death in rice paddy in central Thailand

Thailand3 hours ago

Thailand movie legend Sombat Metanee has died, aged 85

Crime3 hours ago

Teen soldier murders cousin for allegedly raping his mother

Video4 hours ago

Thaiger Unfiltered

World4 hours ago

Monkeypox victims told to avoid animals after pet dog is infected

Thailand5 hours ago

Elephant rips mahout’s body in half in southern Thailand

Thailand6 hours ago

2 men on a motorcycle rob a gas station in Chon Buri

Thailand6 hours ago

PM Prayut suggests studying Buddhism to cope with rising electricity bills in Thailand

Thailand7 hours ago

Indian man arrested for smuggling 17 live animals out of Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending