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by James Alexander-Sinclair

I have used [bamboos] as screens, specimens in pots and in innumerable planting schemes. However, they are mere minnows compared to some of the Asian varieties that grow to 20m high...

Bamboo caulms in a stackI have just returned from a very jolly trip to South East Asia. (Not that you would have noticed I was away: is such a slick and well-oiled operation that my blogs kept appearing, in my absence, as if by magic.) Mostly I was loafing around looking at things but, being a conscientious and dedicated fellow, I also kept an eye open for things that might interest you. Bamboo, for example.

In this country we most commonly grow the Phyllostachys bamboos, especially Phyllostachys nigra, with black stems, and P. aureosulcata f. aureocaulis. I have used them as screens, specimens in pots and in innumerable planting schemes. However, they are mere minnows compared to some of the Asian varieties that grow to 20m high with stems (or culms) as thick as my leg.

We drove through a village on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam where they specialise in growing bamboo and every house is dwarfed by enormous stands of tall waving stems. It is used for so many purposes including baskets, pipes, fences, chopsticks, bridges, charcoal, boats, plywood, brushes, hats, musical instruments, furniture and fishing rods. It can be woven into cloth, the shoots can be eaten and it is even possible to make beer from the stuff.

However, the most dramatic example I saw was in Hong Kong where it was used as scaffolding around towering skyscrapers. It seems extraordinary that something as seemingly flimsy can be tied together with string to make something that will support the weight of people and materials hundreds of feet off the ground. There are more extraordinary examples here. I quite like heights but, in this case, sooner them than me!

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Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2011 at 10:35

It's amazing to think that it's a grass! I noticed this too when I was in Indonesia and got teased by my travelling companions who know I'm very keen on the stuff. I also use it extensively indoors for my exotic pets and aquaria.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2011 at 11:24

I've often seen bamboo used as scaffolding in various parts of China, but then they don't have the health and safety rules we have here lol!

Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2011 at 13:16

I have a bamboo grove which i find very useful when I thin out. It provides me with beansticks (this year sunflowers stakes as well since i have my free seeds), pot plant stakes, and the thinner, bendy metre or so make very pretty fences. The latter I copied from the Bristol Botanic Garden where they are ideal as they do not obstruct the view. Just bend into a half moon shape and stick the ends in the soil, the following one starts about 6inches or so in from the end of the first - oh dear, so much easier to show than write about. The Garden also has a laing(Chinese veranda) made of bamboo which is a very sturdy structure and admired by all who see it.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2011 at 17:12

Help!! I would really love to grow a Spartan apple tree but have a very small garden. Can i grow one in a cointainer??

Gardeners' World Web User 29/03/2011 at 07:22

They also grow to quite a heght and thickness on Crete

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