Sunday, October 12, 2008

A nice day....

My wife came up with a great idea a couple of weeks ago.... buy tickets to the Placer County Farm and Barn Tour. Best $20 we spent, in six hours my family got to:

1. See sheep dogs in action,

2. Swing on a tire swing,

3. Check out an organic farm,

4. Pick our own pumpkin (or five to be exact),

5. Hear from our kids, "Its cool to see where our food comes from...",

6. Go on a hay ride with a 60 year old Ford tractor,

7. Sample honey from a local beekeeper,

8. Buy a couple of Christmas gifts from local craftspeople,

9. Get lost a few times on some country roads;

10. Visit an iris farm.

Great day, we will be doing the farm tour again next year.

Have a great evening......


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Toastmasters Speech: The Wonderful World of Bamboo; One Happy Garden Punk

One Happy Garden Punk

I had a bamboo plant sale this past Saturday and finally met Katie at Garden Punks. Katie ended up buying bambusa multiplex "Alphonse Karr," [pictured] a clumping bamboo that has ornamental beauty and serves as a great privacy hedge. Based on Katie's post, she seems to be one happy Garden Punk with her new bamboo plant. Maybe another "bamboo geek" in the making? We shall see. More on Katie's experience here.

Toastmasters Speech: The Wonderful World of Bamboo

Never fails. I was ready to give my Toastmasters speech today at noon and sure enough, I was called away to another work matter and wasn't able to attend my lunchtime Toastmaster's meeting. Oh well, I'll keep this one in my hip pocket for another day. But, hey, why not share with you all:

"The Wonderful World of Bamboo

Your planting bamboo! Eeek!

Don’t you know that that stuff will take over your yard, your neighbor’s yard?

Bamboo is a misunderstood plant that people fear because they heard a story from long ago or blindly planted it without doing the research necessary.

Or they were misled by a “nursery professional” eager just to offload a plant and make a quick buck.

I own a small backyard nursery and have about 60 types of bamboo plants in my collection.

I often hear horror stories about bamboo, but I am finding that my customers are doing the research and embracing bamboo as a plant with huge potential.

Bamboo, after all, serves many purposes;

It’s beautiful – it comes in many colors, sizes and shapes and brings something special to the garden.

Its functional – they come in both running and clumping species.

Runners are the aggressive version of bamboo that causes fear. If planted in a decorative pot or if you have some space, it can serve as a beautiful addition.

[Demo running graphic]

Runners can fit in a suburban garden; however, a 2 ½ foot deep plastic rhizome barrier is a necessity

Over the past decade, clumping bamboo has been introduced to the U.S and offers a less aggressive alternative. Clumping bamboo grows slower and at a much smaller distance making it easily controllable.

[Demo clumping graphic]

Bamboo has environmental benefits –

A grove of bamboo sequesters 35% more carbon than an equivalent stand of trees.

It’s a great alternative to hardwoods and regenerates quickly, in a matter of years, not decades like a forest.

The fastest culm growth has been clocked at 2 inches an hour in some species.

Bamboo was the only living thing to survive at ground zero of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic blast and its survival allowed for the quick re-greening of Hiroshima .

So how can you become educated about bamboo?
With the increasing popularity of bamboo, there are a lot of resources out there to learn more.
One is the American Bamboo Society, which I am a member of, that publishes scientific journals and a more user friendly magazine for members. They have a couple of public sites:

These sites have pictures, plant information and sources to by bamboo. My business happens to be on this site.

There are also many books that have been published that are great resources.

Also, there are many folks out there, especially through the American Bamboo Society, that are more than willing to answer questions about bamboo.

After doing the research, you’ll find that bamboo will likely serve many purposes.

OK, I leave with a new trick - how to determine a runner from a clumper (not 100% applicable, but is in most cases).

[Demo this - for most bamboos, you can tell a runner by the vertical groove on the culm, for a clumper it is all smooth with no vertical groove]

With a little education, bamboo goes from an “invasive weed” to a functional, beautiful plant that can offer privacy, lend beauty and, dare I say, maybe even help save the planet?

That bit of education is all it takes to get to know and appreciate the Wonderful World of Bamboo."

Have a nice evening!


Monday, July 7, 2008

Playing outside in the garden

There is a fairly new initiative here in California that many local governments are adopting, its called the California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. Essentially its a positive counter-movement to a growing trend among children and adolescents, more sedentary lifestyles, an increasing percentage of overweight and obese children, and an alarming rise in Type 2 Diabetes among kids.

The California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights statement is simple, turn off the TV and play outdoors. Beautifully simple and a return to a healthier form of play. The Bill of Rights suggests ten basic ways to exercise a child's outdoor rights:

1. Discover California's Past
2. Splash in the water
3. Play in a safe place
4. Camp under the stars
5. Explore nature
6. Learn to swim
7. Play on a team
8. Follow a trail
9. Catch a fish
10. Celebrate their heritage

These are all good tenets to get kids outside and enjoy the great, outside world, subject only to the limits of their imagination.

I offer one amendment though, like #5 (Explore nature), that all gardners can appreciate - bring your kids (or a young relative) outside with you when you garden. Let them get their hands dirty as they plant their first seed, deadhead the roses or harvest the vegetable garden. Not only does gardening entail physical activity, it teaches patience, an appreciation for nature and all its beauty, and introduces them to a dying skill, becoming a green thumb, a knack for working with plants to help them grow and flourish.

The California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights is a positive effort to get kids outside. Gardening is just one aspect of this, but an important skill that helps kids keep healthy bodies and minds, as well as a skill that is hard to come by and can only come about from the care and time we take as adults to teach children gardening as a skill.



Photos credit: Flickr - Robin Horrigan

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Unintended Garden

Sometimes the best garden are the most neglected.... in this case completely unintended. Last fall, prepping a newly planted bamboo plot for winter I used some of the "rough" compost from my bin. The same one that we put grass clippings, leaves and kitchen waste (seeds and all).

With hot weather hitting northern California over the past few weeks, new vegetables began cropping up, a squash (neither of us know what variety it is) and a tomato plant (either a big version of a cherry or maybe a Roma). These plants are thriving among the bamboo, the squash plant is even using the bamboo to climb. Since I have been using natural fertilizers, blood meal for nitrogen and bat guano for potassium and phosphorus, the bamboo and its new vegetable neighbors seem very happy, completely neglected and doing great.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

My weekend: Bamboo in the country

A few sore muscles and a couple of blisters later, my dad and I finished two raised planter boxes and planted four types of bamboo on their three acres in Grass Valley, CA. Although I do live on a larger-than-normal suburban lot, I do not grow running bamboo in the ground (I like to have neighbors that like me). So, the offer was made by my parents to use the land they have and I took them up on it. There is enough water and enough room for them to grow.

The four types are:

p. nigra "Black Bamboo": A big seller, full sun, up to 30 feet tall and can take -5 f.

p. edulis "Moso": One of the biggest in the world, the culms are furry to the touch, 75 feet tall, and 7 inch diameter culm, this is a big boy. Can take temps down to 0 f.

p. bambusoides "Castillon": Another favorite, yellow culms with green stripes, leaves are striped. Young shoots also take on a red color. 35 feet tall, can take temps down to 0 f.

p. bambusoides "Giant Japanese Timber Bamboo": Name says it all. 72 feet, 6 inch culm diameter. Full sun, can take temps down to 5 f.

We may be expanding bamboo grown at my parent house and also possibly more planters for fruit trees and more vegetables (they have a small plot now).

I'll share photo updates next year to show growth.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Green lawn experiment, naturally....

I'd love to get rid of my lawn. Less water use, more gardening opportunity and no more fertilizer to keep it green. We recently reduced the front lawn by about 60% and our back lawn by about 50%. Since I live in a family and I was the minority voice in the matter, this was a compromise.

Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned from the traditonal Scott's Weed and Feed to using nothing. Now I am exploring a couple of natural additives and practices to help keep my lawn green and lush without poisoning my local creeks and waterways downstream in the process.

Here are the practices I have incorporated recently and am seeing some early success (lawn looks surprisingly green):

1. Grasscycling - Using the "mulching" function on my lawnmower, I let the grass clippings, finally chopped, sit on my lawn. This adds nitrogen back into the lawn as the grass clippings degrade back into the soil. Surprisingly, the lawn doesn't look messy and we haven't tracked little blades of grass into the house;

2. Weeding by hand - yes, it is tedious, but it beats killing my soil with Round-Up and Scott's Weed and Feed; and surprisingly we have been fairly successful containing crabgrass, almost better since we stopped using Scott's Weed and Feed;

3. Applying a mix of blood meal (high in nitrogen) and bat guano (high in potassium and phosphorous) to the lawn - You have to be careful since these are considered "hot" and can burn your lawn if it is done carelessly. First, water your lawn for a minute. You can either use a fertilizer spreader and apply it low to the ground since it tends to be somewhat light and blows in the wind or you can use a sprayer with the mix inside. The problem with the sprayer is that the gritty bat guano tens to clog the sprayer. After I evenly apply the mixture, I then rewater the lawn for a minute or two right after application. Both bat guano and blood meal are sold at many independent nurseries under the brand name E.B. Stone.

The result of these steps is a surprisingly "green" lawn, healthy, maybe a little less weeds in the grass (especially crabgrass) and this is all done with natural products. Happy I tried it.

Question for readers of this post - Have a lawn? How do you keep it green and lush using only natural additives and practices?


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Holes and cutting out bamboo... I'm tired!

No, this is not a problem with gophers. Me, one jackhammer, and soil full of river rock. Pictured is rock that is in the ground all over my yard, after all I live in a town named Rocklin. Determined to get the momentum going on finishing my backyard, I rented a jackhammer to get the soil ready for plants of all kinds including several Japanese Maples that we have had in pots for a few years, bamboo, some lavender plants and a bunch of unique plants we have picked up at the plant sale recently.

Four hours, lots of noise later, some blisters on my hands and some sore muscles, mission accomplished, but I'm exhausted.

I also knocked out removing half of a mature Golden Goddess Bamboo, a clumping bamboo we planted several years ago. The problem is that it tends to have more of a drooping growth. What's great though is that this variety by far is my best selling bamboo variety and this year I actually ran out because its selling so good, so I took the clumps and potted them, they'll be ready for sale by fall. Once I finish the job, we are planting Thamnocalamus tessellatus "Bergamboes," a South Arican bamboo that grows straight up, is dense, is a clumper and provides privacy.
OK, I'm tired, time for bed, sweet dreams everyone.......


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Great day at the SPPC Plant Sale!

It was a beautiful day at the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club Annual Plant Sale (SPPC) at the Shepard Arts and Garden Center at McKinley Park, in east Sacramento. Did well selling bamboo and the last of my Japanese Maples, saw some friends from last year and made some new ones this year. This sale is more than just making money, its a social experience. McKinley Park is in a beautiful part of Sacramento in an upscale neighborhood (homes built in the 1930's to 1940's) that is a bit bohemian, great venue overall with customers that get gardening as evidenced by simply walking outside along the sidewalks in the neighborhood (awesome 30-50 year old Japanese Maples all over the place).

I also met fellow blogger, Trey Pitsenberger, from Golden Gecko Nursery up the hill in Garden Valley, CA. What a nice guy, very down to earth. I have followed and commented on Trey's blog (a good one in my book) for several months now and it was nice to meet him in person.

Today was like Christmas morning for me, it turned out to be a great day! I worked my !!@# off today but it was well worth it, no doubt a good sleep is in store for tonight.


Friday, March 21, 2008

See you at the plant sale....

Don't miss it if you live in the Sacramento area. I'll be at the Sacramento Perrenial Plant Club (SPPC) tomorrow (Saturday) at the Shephard's Art and Garden Center, McKinley Park, Sacramento (3330 McKinley Blvd, Sacramento). The sale starts at 9 am through 3 pm.

15 vendors, including myself and fellow garden blogger Trey Pitsensberger will be at the annual sale that benefits the SPPC.

Drop by and say "howdy."


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Natural or Not? Results of fertilizer experiment in my garden.

On December 27, I began my very un-scientific experiment to see what yielded better results on my bamboo. A slow release Osmocote or the natural alternative, rough compost (that is a slow release natural alternative). Now, I know that Osmocote's release is governed by moisture and temperature; however, after using Osmocote for years, I am familiar with the results even in the ideal release conditions for Osmocote.

The results are in and so far, by mere observation, the all-natural compost is yielding the best results. The most evident is on my potted Moso (Phylostachys edulis) bamboo. I counted 13 new culms that burst from the ground, that's compared to my other 3 potted bamboos that just had Osmocote applied. Now granted there may be variations in species that may influence the results (like time of year they shoot), but looking at my three clumping bamboos that I also applied compost to in December, I am seeing similar favorable results. That said, this experiment has brought me to the conclusion that going all natural in terms of fertilization seems to yield healthier more vigorous plants.

One a related note..... yesterday, in an effort to "heat up" my compost bin, I purchased a box of blood meal (13-0-0) from the E.B. Stone Company and applied it to my bin. I also applied some to the soil of my bamboo plants. I'm hoping the shot of nitrogen, which bamboo can't get enough of, will really encourage new growth and green the plants.

Time will tell.....


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gardening green... weed barrier fabric, not so good.

Plastic weed barrier fabric, the heavily marketed solution to keeping weeds away, is not green (no surpirse). Susan Brackney of Plenty Magazine writes that the plastic fabric, which you find at the major big box plant peddlers (they know who they are) is made with oil, a not so abundant resource (as well all know). Plus it throws off the balance between water content and air flow in the soil, detering beneficial microbes that help with healthy plant growth and development, through providing a healthy nutrient content in the soil.

The alternative, Brackney says, use newspaper, its biodegradable and keeps the weeds down, with a good mulch top layer or worm castings ("gardner's gold" in my mind). Helps the soil breate which ecourages growth of helpful microbes enhancing the soil's nutrient level.

Have a Happy Friday fellow gardners!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another day in the yard...

Decent temperatures today... mid 60's, rain forecast for tomorrow. That is a perfect time to propagate bamboo, as the temperature is just right and any propagated bamboo would certainly appreciate the rain-bound moisture to fight the shock from being pulled from the ground.

This is a culm of bambusa ventrosica "Buddha's Belly Kimmei." The Kimmei feature is the stripes and mature culms turn yellow with green stripes Note that I kept the dead portion on the culm which is a way to keep the frost (which we are not out of the woods yet here in California) away from live growth, despite my temptation to cut it off. Once I am free and clear of frost, this portion will go.
I was able to get two culms of the Buddha's belly and one from my Silverstripe bamboo which has a white stripe and interesting zig-zag growth (fourth photo).
These will be ready for sale in late summer/early fall. Couldn't pass up this perfect date to propagate bamboo.
Finally, I wanted to say how amazed I am with a cyclamen we planted that came from a family friend. No exageration, this cyclamen has looked the same from early spring 2007 through now. I love this plant!

Spring has almost sprung!


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day at the Sacramento Zoo...

It was a beautiful day in Sacramento, California. Took a trip to the zoo and caught some great photos of bamboo and other interesting plants (as usual, a big plant geek, I paid little attention to the animals). The first two pictures are of a Monkey Puzzle Tree. The next picture is of a blooming Camelia bush. The last three are of bamboo, the tall ones being "Japanese Giant Timber Bamboo" and the last a very interesting culm of what I think is phylostachys aurea "Holychrysa."



Friday, February 15, 2008

Signs of Spring now emerging....

Snapped a couple of photos today showing Spring has almost sprung, at least here in the Sacramento area.....

Pictured is an Amur Maple Tree left over from my days when I grew and sold Japanese Maples. The Japanese Maples' buds are getting plumpler, but have not yet broken out, shouldn't be long though.
Next is one of my three Flowering Quince growing in the front yard, no flowers yet, but the foilage is just starting to emerge. Can't wait, if we keep getting highs in the high 60's and low 70's it shouldn't be long.

Growing bamboo in containers.....

Paul from Boston sent me an e-mail regarding growing bamboo in pots. Yes, this can be done and if you live in a suburban garden like mine, its a good way to enjoy running varieties without having them in the ground. For those living on a small lot with neighbors nearby, I never recommend running bamboo unless (1) you have a rhizome barrier installed or (2) they are container grown. Unlike clumping bamboos, most running bamboos can be very aggresive and can be a source of neighbor-to-neighbor strife.

I have had success growing bamboo in a containers in a couple of different ways. My black bamboo (phylostachys nigra), pictured above, is growing with some gusto in a metal horse trough that I got for free from my neighbor. Depending upon the style of your garden, they can be attractive.
Using a drill bit made for metal work, I drilled several holes in the bottom, created an airgap by placing the trough on bricks. This is dome to prevent rhizomes from escaping the container and into the ground below.
I have also planted four runners in glazed ceramic pots (pictured is phylostachys bambusoides "All Gold"). If have read some literature recommending unglazed to let the soil breathe, but on the flip side unglazed during the summer tends to dry out the soil in the pot. Especially here in Sacramento, where we get several days of temps over 100f in the summer. That can mean a dead bamboo plant - real quick. All that said, I have had nothing but success using the glazed pot.

Like the trough, I have the glazed pots sitting on granite pavers I had left over from our front yard landscaping project last spring.

The other question from Paul is the size and height of container grown bamboo plants. My observation is that they do not get as big or robust as a running bamboo planted in the ground. That fact is true for most plant's size as the pot physically controls the development of the root growth.
Container grown bamboo put in a decorative container adds style and interest to any garden.
Try it out sometime....



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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can bamboo grow in extremely cold temperatures?

Fellow garden blogger Kate from the very popular and very well written "kate smudges in earth, paint and life" and I somehow got on the topic of bamboo. She commented on one of my latest posts, "It's doubtful there is a bamboo that I could grow in my garden," Kate, hails from Saskatchewan, Canada, rightfully so with extreme cold and snow, held this reasonable assumption that bamboo was out of the question. But, in all my bamboo geekdom, replied back "oh contraire" and offered some suggestions. Kate then replied back expressing interest. So knowing a fair amount of fellow bloggers and loyal readers hail from regions of the U.S. and Canada that have extereme winters, I thought why not share this post with all.

OK, the toughest family of clumping bamboos that I have in my collection are the Fargesias. Fargesias come from the the alpine conifer forests of west and southwest China. These are beautiful in delicate sense (in appearance only) and some can be found in mountain elevations as far up as 8,000 feet. On average, these bamboo can take -20 f per the respected American Bamboo Societies source list. The toughest of them all is Fargesia dracocepela (also known as Dragon's Head Bamboo) that lists a minimum temperature at -23 f. Pictured above is the closely related White Dragon Bamboo (Fargesia dracocephela "White Dragon") growing in my garden.

For running varieties, here are some tough cold tolerant varieties:

Phylostachys bissetti at - 15f (very wind tolerant as well)

Phylostachys aureosulcata "Spectabalis" at -10f (yelow culms with green stripes and red at nodes - I have this in my collection, very pretty.

There are a few more that are at -5f to -10f cold tolerance.

So, check out the American Bamboo Societies source list online and you'll be amazed. Photos of these bamboos can be found at
Many thanks to Kate for bring this question up, hope its useful or at least interesting.


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Piddling in the back yard today enjoying the garden...

Today was a great day, the highs today were in the mid 60's and I actually made some progress in the yard. My back yard is in the midst of being transformed from a mess to a place that I hope will be a great place to hang out and at the same time serve as a propagation area for my clumping bamboo plants.

The day started by clearing the northwestern shade dominated part of the yard.
With two large trees in my neigbors yard, I had some major leaves to clean up and I had plenty of fallen bamboo leaves and sheaths that had collected over the winter. I filled a 90 gallon green waste container and had more to put in.
Got the bamboo plants organized from the bamboo trek from the day before. Have a space that spans about 15 x 15 (pictured, bamboo even goes beyond the wooden planter box) that includes most of my plants for sale, that not inluding the 6' x 30' space on the side of the yard that also has more plants for sale and some for propagation.
I was amazed as I did my spring cleaning how many surprises you find, my Japanese Maples that I have left over from the days I used to sell them were actually showing buds that were ready to open, a vivid culm from my "Candy Stripe" Bamboo (pictured) showing some really cool colors and my "Alphonse Karr" Bamboo (also pictured), not anything rare, but showing really bright and vivid yellow coloring on its culms with vertical green striping, very striking presence in the garden.
Finally, I even got around to planting a Dogwood tree in the newly cleared space that I had gotten from a co-worker about 4 years ago. I was amazed that it wasn't root bound, only to find that ot had adapted to my neglect by rooting straight though the pot deeply into the ground. Plants, gotta love 'em.
Get to get out, make some real progress in the long tranformation of my backyard, and enjoy the sunlight. Good day in my book.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bamboo Trek, Part 2: The little mini-van that could......

Today for me was the first say of spring, albeit a bit early. Getting ready for my upcoming plant sale on March 22, I made my annual pilgremage to my bamboo wholesaler. My mighty green mini-van yet again rose to the occasion and servred as the delivery van for the bamboo trek.

First, the seats are taken out, then the back seat is folded into the bottom cavity. This turns the family van into an instant cargo van.
Drop a tarp in the back and I was ready to roll.
Left Rocklin this morning at 7:00 a.m. for my 9:00 a.m. appointment.

Went through my wish list and loaded an amazing 31 five gallons into the back of the van (previous record was 32 five gallon pots). No worries, bamboo clums are generally very pliable and do not sustain damage, unlike trees or other plants.
Got home and was time to unload.

I'm sure my neighbors were wondering what the heck I was doing, especially with the sheepish grin of satisfaction on my face.

When all was said and done I was pooped. But its all worth it. My growing and selling season has begun officially. With highs in the low 60's today and new bamboo plants to oggle over, I can't help but feel like spring is here.

Photos of the new bamboo additions are forthcoming, but I'm pooped, time for some shuteye.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Enjoying nature is so passe'?

A study was recently completed by researchers at the University of Illinois - Chicago which establishes a link between the rise in internet use and gaming to a decline in camping, fishing and other outdoor activities. Maybe a bit obvious, but sad in many respects. An article in the Houston Chronicle talks further about how enjoying nature has become virtual for many and is an obvious cause of the rise in childhood obesity. There is even some suggestion that those who do not enjoy nature and what it has to offer, may care less about the environment.

Even if nature is not accessible to all (you can safely say that not all people live near a national forrest nor have the means to visit one), I feel that gardening is another way to connect to nature. I have some issue with a comment made in the Houston Chronicle that yet agin stereotypes Gen X and Y'ers as not connected to nature. Yes, maybe true for some, but I find that consdition accross all generations. As a Gen X'er I think that connecting to nature and a love of gardening often times has more to do with upbringing and influences in our lives as we grow and mature.

For me, gardening is therapy, a time to get away from the barrage of modern life and a chance to have a hand in creating art in the garden. One can only hope that this trend is an anomaly.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008 Great garden blogging community blooming.... is becoming a great one stop resource to find your favorite "green thumb" bloggers. has well over 300 blogs listed and its growing every day.

Brain child of Stuart Robinson of Busselton, Western Australia, Stuart has created a vibrant community of garden bloggers with a format that is easy to use, gives users the ability to submit their blogs, "fave" their favorite blogs and communicate with their favorite bloggers.

If you haven't checked it out, its a "must stop" destination along your journey through the great world wide web.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Another garden to put on the "to see" list...

I've heard of the Quail Botanical Gardens because of its bamboo grove. Located in Encinitas, CA, its 20 miles north of San Diego. I hadn't visited the website until tonight and was surprised by how big it was and the amount of gardens it actually had (35 acres), from a tropical rain forrest to a succulent garden to a subtropical fruit garden.

We are planning a trip to Southern California this summer. If we happen to be near there, it may be worth a trip. Anyone been there before? If so, please share.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Long, cold winter days, dreaming of the perfect garden to visit......

Last year, a gentleman I do business with in the bamboo trade, was kind enough to give me a catalog (attached) for a really spacial place near Anduze, France (southern part of the country) called La Bambouseraie. La Bambouseraie is a bamboo park and has a long history stemming back to 1856. Considering that this park survived a few wars, including the two world wars, its amazing its still around.

Below is the history excerpt from the La Bambouseraie website:

"This property, which extends over 34 hectars (84 acres), is located 11 km south-east of Alès and 2 km north of Anduze. Geographically, it is a basin whose bottom is made of alluvial deposits from the Quaternary and whose sides are formed by limestone from various periods, and by granite. Not far from Prafrance, the river Gardon makes its way through a narrow canyon, of granite upstream (Roucan) and of limestone downstream (Anduze Rocks). Prafrance enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with an average rainfall of 1100 mm per year, but it can be very irregular, from torrential storms to drought. This is why the park has been equipped with a 5 km long network of permanent irrigation canals.

It is in this privileged setting that the “bambouseraie” of Prafrance was created by a native of the Cévennes region with a passion for botany : Eugène Mazel. Mazel had made a fortune in trading with spices he directly imported from Asia. This activity allowed him to have plants, practically unknown in Europe at that time, sent to him from these distant countries. In 1856, Mazel bought the property of Prafrance from Anne de Galière in order to realize his dream : create a bamboo plantation, a “bambouseraie”. The word “bambouseraie” did not exist at the time. Only many years later was this name given to Mazel’s plantation in Prafrance. The natural conditions of the site seem to be favourable for his project. The local microclimate apparently suits the bamboos. Only one thing is missing : water. Mazel then undertook gigantic works to bring the water harnessed upstream from the Gardon. Thanks to the three elements : water, soil and climate, the undertaking was a success. Mazel was able to acclimatize a number of bamboo species, and many other exotic plants as well. Fabulous plant collections were put together in Prafrance, which required the care of a great number of gardeners. This cost a lot of money and in 1890 Mazel was ruined.

He would never recover from having to leave his property to the Crédit Foncier de France. Prafrance was managed by this bank until the 2nd November 1902, when it was bought by Gaston Nègre. Nègre devoted all his energy in salvaging what remained of Mazel’s collections, trying not only to preserve them but also to enrich them. From 1948 on, Maurice Nègre, an agricultural engineer, carried on his father’s work. While fighting to restore the park, which had been heavily damaged by the floods of 1958, he died in an accident in 1960.

The “Bambouseraie” might never have recovered from this lost, had not Mrs Nègre decided to devote her life to continuing her husband’s work. She did it with courage and success. In 1977, her daughter Muriel and her son-in-law Yves Crouzet, an horticultural engineer, took over the management of the estate and the development of the park. Since 2004, Muriel is running the Bambouseraie."

Today, I couldn't help but think about how cool it would be to visit La Bambouseraie. Unfortunately the English version of their site has a lot of broken links, but the French version has a virtual tour you should check out.

Also, check out this video (click link), its in French, but you can see from it why this looks like a gardners dream:

La bambouseraie - kewego
La bambouseraie - kewego

Winter days, what garden pardise do you dream of visiting to escape it all?


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eeek! NBC gets it wrong.... Lucky Bamboo is not bamboo!

NBC Nightly News did a "green" report on bamboo and how it is becoming the new source for fabric and flooring tonight. Glad to see my favorite plant getting some favorable press, but alas, NBC perpetuates a grand misperception..... lucky bamboo is not bamboo!

While interviewing a clothes designer, the designer explains that his bamboo fabric line is made from bamboo and EEK, he's pointing to Lucky Bamboo!

Don't scream at the TV much, but it even had my wife screaming.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana), as defined by the American Bamboo Society, is a native of Cameroon, in west Africa and is a understory rainforest plant - "The first thing to say is that small green stems in small vases filled with some rocks and a little water sold as Lucky Bamboo across the U. S. are not bamboo at all. They are not even a grass..."

Too bad the reporter didn't do a bit more research, Lucky Bamboo is cool and all, but has nothing on the real deal.....


Monday, January 28, 2008

Bamboo trek: Spring is almost here!

For me, the beginning of spring is signified by my first trip to my wholesaler to get ready for those "green thumbs" and bamboo collectors looking to add more bamboo to the garden. Since clumping bamboo (the mild non-invasive cousin of the running bamboo) is fairly easy to get, the options abound for really any type of landscape idea or need.
This will also help me prepare for my (aka Mad Man Bamboo's) first plant sale of the season at the Shepard Arts and Garden Center at Sacramento's McKinley Park on March 22, by supplementing the stock I grow on site with other varieties not available to me. The sale is put on by the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club and the table rent proceeds and auction help support their good organization.

The date for my bamboo trek is set for a couple of weeks from now and am using my handy-dandy American Bamboo Society Species/Source list (my weathered 2006 list pictured) a must for any "bamboo geek" like myself, to gather my wish list.

For me, this is like a kid in a candy store, and I am sure to come back with more varieties for my customers and a couple here and there for my personal collection.

More posts to come.....

After pretty much shutting down for the winter, this bamboo trek means the season is officially on for me. Spring can't come soon enough, I'm sure you fellow "green thumbs" are with me on that!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bamboo homes from Hawaii

Ran across this site - Bamboo Living Homes by Bamboo Technologies. Real bamboo homes made by a company out of Haiku, Hawaii. It's a very interesting alternative to the bland vanilla stucco production homes that you see here in many parts of California (and most of the nation).

Looks like they harvest the bamboo in Vietnam using a clumping variety, bambusa stenostachya, or "tre gai".

The site covers all aspect of bamboo harvesting in Vietnam, fabrication, shipping and assembly at the home site. Interesting concept and from the website, the homes have some real architectural interest and nice finish work. You can take a virtual tour of the company's model home in Kaui.

Now if I had some spare cash lying around and a lot in the country.... hmmm... OK time to stop dreaming.



Thursday, January 3, 2008

"Mad" over bamboo

Growing bamboo for me is fun, I appreciate the beauty of the plant and selling it gives me the opportunity to interact with a variety of people, those that appreciate plants and gardening more than most. My business is unlike any other, I grow bamboo, part-time and sell by appointment and at local plant sales. No store front, low overhead and on my own terms.

My business is small and low key, makes enough money to support my bamboo collecting habit, but not so intensive that it infringes on my personal life.

Many of the people that visit ask how I got into plants and bamboo. I attribute it to my mother-in-law who really introduced me to gardening, morphed into tinkering and growing Japanese Maples. Japanese Maples are beautiful, but for a lazy gardener like myself, they required alot of attention and time and not much profit when all was said and done.

Bamboo is easy to grow and I appreciate the challenge of overcoming the mis-information on bamboo (that all bamboo is invasive). The perfect plant for the laziest of gardeners. The colors, shapes and leaves offer a big payoff for relatively little effort.

I also have found strength in my business is through carrying bamboo varieties that cannot be found in this area and operating within a niche that can coexist among the big boys like Home Depot, Lowes.

I also figure that my low key business model is a nice slow intro to the nursery industry. Once I can financially pull it off to buy some land, maybe I'll open a storefront nursery in the country.

Finally, through my website - I'm amazed by the extent by which people are interested in bamboo, getting web hits form all over Europe, east Asia, South Africa and all over the U.S.

So, what up with the name - Mad Man Bamboo? The name came from my wife who says I'm "mad" about bamboo. That's in crazy through obsession. But its a good obsession that keeps me happy, so its all good in my book.


Mad Man Bamboo