Monday, April 30, 2012

On most gardener's bucket list... U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington D.C.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I had a chance to quickly swing by the U.S. Botanical Gardens. This place is not only a gardener's paradise, it is full of history and significance as is almost every square inch of Washington D.C. is.

Pulled from the US Botanical Gardens website, here is a brief history:

The United States Botanic Garden is rooted in the nation’s heritage. During the late 18th century, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison shared the dream of a national botanic garden and were instrumental in establishing one on the National Mall in 1820.

The institution actually traces its beginning to 1816, when the constitution of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C., proposed the creation of a botanic garden to collect, grow and distribute plants of this and other countries that might contribute to the welfare of the American people. The Institute’s garden was established by Congress in 1820 to the west of the Capitol Grounds, from First Street to Third Street between Pennsylvania and Maryland Avenues. This facility functioned until shortly after the organization stopped holding meetings in 1837.

In 1842, the idea of a national botanic garden was reestablished when the United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas (the Wilkes Expedition) brought a collection of living plants from around the globe to Washington, D.C. Initially placed in a specially constructed greenhouse behind the Old Patent Office Building, the plants were moved in late 1850 into a new structure on the site previously occupied by the Columbian Institute’s garden.

The US Botanical Garden in 1867.

In continuous operation and open to the public since 1850, the Botanic Garden moved to its present location in 1933, a complex located along the north and south sides of Independence Avenue bordered by First Street and Third Streets, SW. The Garden includes the Conservatory, which was renovated from 1997-2001; the National Garden, which opened in 2006; and Bartholdi Park, which was created in 1932. A plant production and support facility opened in Anacostia in 1993, which includes 85,000 square feet under glass divided into 34 greenhouse bays in addition to maintenance shops.

The U.S. Botanic Garden was formally placed under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in 1856 and has been administered through the Architect of the Capitol since 1934. The Architect of the Capitol has served as Acting Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden and is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Garden and for any construction, changes or improvements made.

Making the most of the time I had, here is a picture tour of what I saw...

The front of the U.S. Botanic Gardens.  Their feature exhibit was Orchid Mystique.

Beautiful specimen of Bambusa oldhamii 'Giant Clumping Timber Bamboo' in the main entryway

Part of the Orchid Mystique exhibit which really focused on the beauty of Orchids but also the fact that many varieties of the plant species is endangered in the world.

The main part of the conservatory which has a water feature down the middle. Very beautiful.

This was in the kid's play area.  I had to really resist playing in the bamboo!  This would have been a dream play area for me as a kid with a tunnel made of bamboo.

A 65 year old Willow Leaf Fig Bonsai Tree.

A nicely done terrarium.

A Stromanthe. A very stunning plant indeed.

Bambusa vulgaris 'Vitatta', a clumping bamboo that grows only under the protection of the conservatory.

If ever in Washington D.C., this is a must-visit place for any gardener.  It is located near the House of Representative's side of the Capitol Building.  Truly one of those places that belongs on a gardener's bucket list...


Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
(916) 300-6335

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Clumping bamboo wakes up with warm temperatures

I always love late April, early May as it is when the "naked" culms of clumping bamboo begin to leaf out. The warm days and moderate evening temperatures do wonders that no fertilizer can beat.

Clumping bamboo typically shoots in late Summer through about late Fall.  At that point, since the shooting ends right around when the colder temperatures begin (late October), the clumping bamboo goes into dormancy where the new culm stops growing, doesn't leaf out and essentially, for lack of a better description, looks "naked."

A "naked" clumping bamboo culm.  This was taken on February 10, 2012.

So for several months in the winter, you sit there and hope and pray that the wind and/or frost doesn't topple your beautiful new culms.  Its always a pang of disappointment for a "Bamboo Geek" like me to see that tall new culm toppled over after a Winter storm.

Now with the newly warming temperatures, when it finally breaks into the 80's, the new branches and leaves begin to emerge from the nodes of the "naked culms."

This is what I saw today (April 29, 2012).  Makes my heart go pitter-patter!

Really looking forward to seeing these new culms once they are fully leafed out likely in July.  Its what brings me joy, not only for the newly found privacy, but out of my appreciation for bamboo itself.

If you, my Bamboo Geek readers, have similar stories to share, please send your photos my way at  Folks that are experienced with bamboo and especially those discovering (or re-discovering) bamboo love to see how clumping bamboo grows and I'd love to share the stories of others.

Enjoy the beautiful weather!

Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
(916) 300-6335
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

A hidden garden beauty...

Thamnocalamus crassinodus 'Kew Beauty'

About four years ago, I planted a rare, very clumping beautiful bamboo in the back end of my yard thinking it was the perfect spot for it to flourish.  The bamboo, Thamnocalamus crassinodus 'Kew Beauty', is very rare and exceptionally beautiful with light airy culms and leaves; and very vivid red coloring on its culms and branchlets.  It's so dainty, it really is suited for mostly shady sun conditions, especially in the Sacramento area with its hot summers and intense afternoon sun.

Pretty soon I realized this wasn't the best spot for 'Kew Beauty'.  But as with most things, finding the time to tend to the simplest things seems to be a challenge in life.

So, it sat, and sat, and sat.  Looking somewhat pitiful and untended after several years of being on the 'to-do' list, I finally dug up what is now a very mature plant and split it in two.  The largest piece I kept for myself and the rest, I plan on selling once it roots out (likely by late Summer).

After, I relocated the main plant into a large pot and under a shade structure, and cleaned it up, I was amazed how such a neglected plant could still be so beautiful.  Pictured is the smaller plant I intend to sell in the near future.  Funny how sometimes mild neglect can bring the best out in some plants.


Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
(916) 300-6335
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mad Man Bamboo and a Yard Crashers project...

After participating in production of the Season 7 premiere of DIY Network's Yard Crashers in October,  I have been waiting for several months now to see the show, and see what ultimately ended up in the final cut.

Ironically enough, I just watched the show, which premiered this past Monday, last night (Wednesday) as I was on a family vacation in Carmel, California.  The place we stayed in Carmel did not have the DIY Channel, so with that I had to wait until we got home to watch the show on the DVR.

So, I wanted to share with you my contribution to the project and my overall experience participating in Yard Crashers.  If you watched the show, you saw brief glimpses of me, but I was working hard behind the scenes on the second day of the project, planting plants and generally helping out where I could.

Overall, I had a really good time and was happy to be able to show how clumping bamboo and running bamboo can be used properly (planting the right type of bamboo in the right circumstances) to create a lush, green new yard.

The project itself was located in Sacramento in the Curtis Park neighborhood.  If you have ever watched Yard Crashers you know that they jam their projects into a two day timeframe.  With that, they mobilize a near army of contractors, artisans and nursery professionals to pull off a somewhat ambitious yard makeover.  The project was designed by Misha Lindsey of Design by Misha who did an excellent job in designing the makeover and guiding the project to completion. She was also very kind, down to earth and easy to work with.

I donated about a dozen bamboo plants to the project which you see lined against the fence.  They were Bambusa ventricosa 'Buddha's Belly Kimmei', Bambusa multiplex 'Hedge Bamboo', Phylostachys nigra 'Daikokuchiku (Giant Black Bamboo) and one Himalayacalamus hookerianus 'Teague's Blue Bamboo'.  Although not specifically mentioned in the show, the bamboo played a key role in accenting the overall "Thai look and feel" to the project and brought in some lush green foliage to what was once a very stark, average backyard.

With that, here are some photos of the entire project:

Here is the yard before the Yard Crashers Crew began.  Pretty typical yard.

When I arrived, on day two,  this is what I saw - the Thai style levitation bed's frame was done (Matt Blashaw, the show's host, was working on the roof), they were laying the foundation of the paver patio and they were well along the way to completing the new deck.

Here is Matt working with one of the homeowners with a saw.

A photo with Matt during a very brief break.

Clumping bamboo along the fence line to create that lush Thai-style backdrop.

The "Teague's Blue Bamboo", a clumping bamboo, was planted as a centerpiece ornamental near the barbecue.

I really liked the barbecue that Misha Lindsey designed.  Behind that are Phylostachys nigra 'Daikokuchiku' (Giant Black Bamboo) that were going to be placed in pots and temporarily staged behind the barbecue.

The finished levitating bed with bamboo in the background.

The finished project, which was done by around 7 pm the second night.  I was very tired by the end of the day, but had a great time and it was an experience I will never forget.

If you missed the show, click here to see when it will air again.  Once the video is posted, I will share with everyone as well.

Earlier this year, I also participated in Turf Wars which will air sometime soon.  I don't know the date yet, but will announce it here and also on our Facebook page.

Thanks for watching!

Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
(916) 300-6335
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