Tropical Gardening: In times like these, consider a bamboo trek

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE Buddha’s Belly bamboo, or Bambusa vulgaris wamin, with its unusual swollen internodes, makes an interesting living sculpture for the small garden. It does well even with some coastal exposure and can grow in elevations up to 4,000 feet.

COVID-19 has really restricted our lives, but here is a fun trip to consider this coming weekend.

Quindembo Bamboo Nursery in North Kohala is inviting folks to visit its impressive bamboo collection planted on 20 acres of old sugarcane and pasture land. It is sort of an open house, nursery style, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 4-6.

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This will give you a sense of how some of these fabulous clumping bamboos will grow in a relatively short time and maybe how you might incorporate some of these species into your own landscape.

Peter Berg and Susan Ruskin have imported more than 100 species of noninvasive clumping bamboos. These are suitable for privacy hedges, gorgeous landscape statements, edible shoots, windbreaks and those used for construction.

The nursery will have a great selection of plants for sale at discounted prices, so bring a truck to take advantage of this special opportunity.

Bamboos with exotic names such as tropical blue angel mist, weavers bamboo and Wamin are just a few. To see a list with descriptions or for directions to the nursery, send an email to sales@bamboonursery.com or call Peter at 987-6452.

Hawaii’s varied climates and cultural makeup are ideal for bamboo, but until the 1980s there was no serious effort to introduce the valuable elite bamboos of Asia and the Americas. Thanks to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society and Quindembo Nursery, we now have many species from which to choose.

Asia is the ancestral home of many kamaaina — people and plants. When it comes to plants, one of the most valuable of these is bamboo.

With large tracts of land now available for forestry, and our local interest in sustainable agriculture, bamboo could become one of our major resources. It has many uses, commercial and ornamental.

Even though bamboos are excellent sources of edible shoots and construction material, most folks are interested in ornamental bamboos for their beauty.

The clumping bamboos are ideally suited for ornamental uses in their area of adaptation. They can be planted in groups for hedges or singly for specimen plantings. They spread very slowly and are easy to keep within bounds.

One of the best for sunny locations is the Mexican weeping bamboo. Others to consider are the Bambusa multiplex forms such as Alphonse Karr, fern leaf, silver stripe and feather bamboo. These delicate clump types range from 10-20 feet high.

Other rare clumping types are beginning to show up in our nurseries, such as the Chusqueas and Buddha’s Belly bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris “Wamin”).

For larger gardens, try Bambusa chungii (tropical blue) and weaver’s bamboo. There are several other bamboos also available These are all clumping types in the 20- to 40-foot high range with fancy Latin names and multiple uses.

The giant tropical clumping bamboos need plenty of room since they soar from 50-100 feet tall under ideal conditions. This group includes the Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Guadua and Gigantochloa species that can have culms 6-12 inches in diameter.

Favorites are the black culm types such as hitam, lako and Gigantochloa atroviolecea. Another favorite spectacular giant is Dendrocalamus brandisii.

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Bamboos do best in a moist, well-drained soil with some organic matter. Apply complete fertilizer such as organic 8-8-8 or manures 4-6 times a year to the planting. Mulch the soil around the planting. Apply a layer of mulching material at least 3 inches deep.

For further information about bamboo, call the Master Gardeners at 322-4893 in Kona or 981-5199 in Hilo.

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