Holland's Wilco Karmelk introduces China's best-known
export. by By Wilco Karmelk, K. Karelstraat 19, 4521 AE
Biervliet, Netherlands Chamaerops No. 08, published online 23-10-2002
Phyllostachys in Belgium
Bamboo is native to almost every continent. The
majority of species however come from Asia. Bamboo has been highly
valued in the Far East for centuries where it has a unique role
to play in daily life. It has countless uses and has been used for
food, paper, construction and in medicines. The range of its usefulness
is perhaps unequalled by any other resource.
The bamboos are the tallest members of the grass
family and they grow more rapidly than any other plant in the world.
Growth of more than a metre in a 24-hour period has been recorded.
In European gardens bamboos are mainly grown as
specimen plants because of the superb ornamental value of their
foliage. Until relatively recently, however, very few people realised
their potential as garden plants and yet they are among the finest
for creating an exotic effect.
Only a few hardy species of bamboo have been cultivated
in our gardens. Too often people associate bamboo with steaming
tropical jungles, making the mistake of regarding them all as tender.
In fact, dozens of species come from temperate climates with cold
winters. However, over the last couple of years the situation has
changed and the number of hardy species made available by nurseries
has been greatly increased.
All species of hardy bamboos are evergreens. The
stems that carry the branches and leaves are called culms. They
reach their ultimate height in the first growing season and in only
a few months. The culm diameter does not increase any more with
age like it does in all other forms of trees and shrubs. The successive
generations of culms the following year will be slightly larger
in diameter and are found to be greater in height as well. This
goes on until the average height of the species has been achieved.
The new sprouts shoot up from rhizomes, the underground system that
expands from the base of the parent plant.