Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bamboo videos

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while now. Today seems like a good day since I’ve been busy with work and haven’t had time for a longer entry.

These are bamboo-related videos that I find particularly interesting or useful.



Portrait of a woman growing bamboo in Bali (from CNN)


Visit to Bamboo Garden near Portland, OR


Garden Time TV: Visit to Bamboo Garden near Portland, OR


Garden Time TV: Visit to Tsugawa Nursery in Oregon; planting running bamboos


Efforts by Bamboo Revolution (www.bamboorevolution.com) to launch a sustainable bamboo industry in the U.S.


Video about Booshoot Gardens, a tissue-culture lab dedicated to the rapid propagation of bamboo



Several interested videos on this topic can be found here.



Planting bamboo in a pot (audience: beginners). More bamboo-related videos for beginners by Expert Village can be found on YouTube. Experienced bamboo aficionados will groan at some of the information provided in these videos.


Good introduction to planting a bamboo in the ground


How to divide a clumping bamboo


How to prune a clumping bamboo


Winterizing bamboos

Monday, November 8, 2010

Autumn blues

This spring and summer our yard looked better than ever, maybe because many plants are now mature or maybe because we had a long spring and relatively mild summer. In fact, quite a few plants were still doing OK on as recently as last week. However, with the recent rains combined with intermittently strong winds and much lower nighttime temperatures, things are going downhill fast. Of course this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise considering the time of year but somehow I’m not mentally prepared to let go of the abundant beauty we enjoyed in 2010 and so I find myself in a bit of a funk today.

Salvias, echinaceas and coreopsis today
Same bed in July

My tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) is definitely a goner. I still have no idea why it decided to just die!

Tower of jewels not long for this world

The wind knocked over some of my favorite cannas that I’d been trying to establish in a pretty inhospitable part of our yard. They don’t really get enough sun or water there so next year I’ll try something else in that spot.

Cannas after the wind had its way with them

I love caladiums, probably because they’re so short-lived in our climate and hence so special when they’re at their peak. Well, they are not at their peak any longer! Time to dig up the tubers and store them for next year.

Caladiums not enjoying the colder nighttime temperatures

Lavender is usually a very happy plant in our area. This one has been in the ground for four years and looked glorious all year (see 2nd photo below). Now, for some reason the middle part is dying. I’ll give it a radical pruning in a week or two to see if it will recover. Sometimes lavender just decides to die. I suspect it has to do with our clay soil even though I heavily amend it to improve drainage.

Lavender dying from the inside out
Happy in the summer (plant on the left)

This is the time of year that Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) really hits its stride. However, it is no match for strong winds. Even knocked over it’s still a bee magnet so I haven’t cut it back yet but I’ll have to do that soon because it’s blocking the sidewalk.

Mexican bush sage, flattened by the wind

Just recently I wrote a rather gushing piece about my farfugiums. I mentioned that last winter some critter—a rat was my guess—was eating my variegated farfugium. Well, the critter is back. It did horrible damage to my Farfugium japonicum 'Argenteum' and even attacked the leaves of my Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’.

Don’t think you can get away with it, maleficent creature of the night! I’m not going to take this lying down!

Update: Culprit caught on 11/14/10.

Chewed leaf on Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’

The time has definitely come to say goodbye to the denizens of the tropical bed in the front yard. The hidden gingers (curcumas), are usually the first to go. (Funny, they’re also some of the last to come up in early summer!) The butterfly gingers (hedychiums) and the elephant ears (colocasias) usually hang on until the first frost.

Hidden ginger (Curcuma petiolata) getting ready to hibernate

Memories of a time gone by: our tropical bed in its mid-summer glory.

Tropical bed with caladiums, elephant ears,
and various types of ginger

OK, enough of the autumn blues for today. There are good things happening, too, in our yard. I just noticed dozens of seedlings from a nigella (commonly known as Love-in-the-Mist) which itself arrived on the wind from somewhere else.

Love-in-the-Mist seedlings

And our Washington navel oranges are beginning to turn from green to orange. Still a month or six weeks to go before they’re ripe but they're looking so good already!

Washington navel oranges

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bamboos in Sydney, Australia

Australia has been on my mind all week. My wife is currently in Sydney visiting friends, and I’ve been thinking fondly of the time all of us spent there in late December 2009 and early January 2010.

I originally wrote the following for a travel blog I kept during our trip. I’m reposting it here because it might be of interest to other bamboo aficionados.

This page contains photos of the bamboo varieties I saw in Sydney, especially in the Royal Botanic Gardens which has mature clumps of many tropical bamboos. The descriptions in italics are from the American Bamboo Society’s Species Source List.


Height: 25 ft
Culm diameter: 1.5”

“Each node bears a large number of branches down to the culm base, making a dense hedge. Hardiest of the Bambusa, grown down to 12F by some in otherwise very favourable sites.”

Bambusa multiplex with bamboo fence


Height: 70 ft
Culm diameter: 4”

“A strong growing bamboo with very straight culms forming loose clumps. Also known as Dendrocalamus membranaceus.”

Bambusa membranacea Bambusa membranacea Bambusa membranacea 

BAMBUSA OLDHAMII (Giant timber bamboo)

Height: 55 ft
Culm diameter: 4”

“The most common giant tropical bamboo grown in the U.S. Culms straight and erect with relatively short branches. Leaves are rather wide.”

 Bambusa oldhamii Bambusa oldhamii Bambusa oldhamii  Bambusa oldhamii 


Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 1.3”

“Tight clumps. An extremely handsome plant that arches gracefully. The thin-walled culms are used for weaving. Culm more slender than the typical B. textilis, nodding top, graceful foliage.”

Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' 

BAMBUSA VENTRICOSA (Buddha’s belly bamboo)

Height: 55 ft
Culm diameter: 2.3”

“It becomes a dwarf with swollen internodes when grown in pots under dry conditions. In the ground it reverts to a giant with zigzag culms and branches.

(NOTE: The specimen below showed no dwarfism whatsoever!)

Bambusa ventricosa


Height: 50 ft
Culm diameter: 4”

“Common throughout the tropical world. Open clump, culms spaced a foot or two apart. Culm cuttings root very easily. Used for banana props. Similar to the species, golden yellow culms with green vertical stripes that look like drip marks. A very popular ornamental. Potted culm cuttings do not always survive.”

Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' 


Height: 65 ft
Culm diameter: 8”

“From southern China. The large, dark green leaves are 10 to 16 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. Light green culms striped with dark green.”

Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung' Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung' Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung' Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung'


Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 2”

“Tight clump. It has long (up to an inch) culm leaf ligules, narrow leaves. Light gray-green culms, white stripes.”

Gigantochloa albociliata


Height: 50 ft
Culm diameter: 3.5”

“From Java and Sumatra. Brown to black culms striped faint green. Dark green leaves. Sheath blades reflexed.”

Gigantochloa atroviolacea Gigantochloa atroviolacea Gigantochloa atroviolacea Gigantochloa atroviolacea


Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 2”

“Culms turn jet black after the first 6 months to one year. Popular because of its graceful habit and the sharp accent of its culm color. Said to grow larger in northern climates.”

Phyllostachys nigra


Height: 4 ft
Culm diameter: 0.2”

“Dwarf variegated bamboo. Leaves keep their white stripes through the year, softly hairy on the lower surface. Aka P. variegatus.”



Height: 40 ft
Culm diameter: 3”

“One of the most graceful bamboos known. Culm walls very thick, almost solid. Sheath persistent. In monasteries in Thailand.” 

Thyrsostachys siamensis Thyrsostachys siamensis  Thyrsostachys siamensis

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another morning walk

SinceI had so much fun yesterday morning exploring the greenbelt near our house with my younger daughter, our dog and my camera, I decided to do it again today. It’s Saturday, so our 12-year old daughter came along as well. The weather was still beautiful—high 60’s, blue sky, hardly any wind. I’m enjoying the wonderful weather while it lasts. We’re expecting rain tomorrow!

Since our first rain of the season a couple of weeks ago, fresh green grass has been coming up everywhere. In the summer, California truly is the Golden State but as soon as we receive some precipitation in the fall, everything begins to turn green again.

New grass at the foot of a palm tree

Walking through our neighborhood park at the end of our street, I stopped to photograph the intricate bark on this sycamore, like I have done so many times. There are very few trees that have bark as beautiful as this although the gum trees I saw in Australia last winter are definitely in the same league.

Mature sycamore in our neighborhood park

We have quite a few English walnut trees growing in this park and all along the South Davis greenbelt. The English walnut, or more properly Persian walnut (Juglans regia), is native to the Old World and can be found from the Balkans all the way to the Himalayas and southwest China. Our trees must have been planted by the ranchers that settled this area in the mid-1800s. These trees are huge, some close to 100 ft in height, with stately canopies.

Walnut tree along our greenbelt

At this time of year, the paths through the park and along the greenbelt are covered with black walnut husks. It doesn’t really look like there could be anything edible inside of them but there is!

Walnut husks

Similar in shape to walnut husks are the seed capsules of the California buckeye (Aesculus californica), a small deciduous tree that grows to about 15 ft. It loses its leaves in late summer—the first tree to do so around here. It’s a strange sight seeing a bare buckeye in September; many people think it’s diseased or dead!

The seed capsules shown in the photo below will soon split open and release the orange-brown seeds which look like large chestnuts. As pretty as they are, buckeye seeds are poisonous. They were used by native Indians to stun fish in small streams to make them easier to catch.

Seed capsule of California buckeye

Continuing the theme of round objects growing on trees, these are galls growing on a Valley oak (Quercus lobata). They are caused by tiny wasps which pierce the tree and lay their eggs inside the plant tissue. Chemicals inside the egg trigger rapid cell growth, the result of which are these distinctive balls, sometimes called “oak apples”. In the fall, the galls turn brown and then black and eventually fall off.

Galls on Valley oak

Another shrub that is very common in our area and other parts of Northern California is the Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis). In early spring, its reddish purple pea-shaped flowers appear before it leaves out. In the fall, redbuds are covered with russet-colored seed pods which I personally find very attractive.

Redbud seed pods

Speaking of seed pods, here are some of the strangest-looking ones to be found in our area. They are very thin and long and eventually burst open to release fluffy seeds. Have you guessed the plant? It’s oleander (Nerum oleander), which is ubiquitous here. It grows in profusion along the median strip of Interstates 80 and 5. It’s a beautiful shrub with attractive leaves and flowers, but it’s also one of the most poisonous plants in the world.

Oleander seed pods

Equally attractive but completely non-toxic is the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) that can be found in many places in our part of town. It’s native to Western Europe all the way up to Ireland where it’s called “Killarney strawberry tree”. It’s drought-tolerant and grows very well in our climate. The bell-shaped flowers remind me of manzanita flowers.

Strawberry tree flowers

The most beautiful thing about the strawberry tree is its fruit. First bright yellow, then turning a bright red, the berries take a full year to mature and are ripe when the next flowering cycle begins. The fruit is edible but bland. The “unedo” part of its Latin name supposedly comes from “unum edo”, meaning “I eat one”—the implication being that nobody in their right mind would eat more than one! However, the Portuguese have found a way to turn the fruit into a type of brandy called Medronho. To each their own, I say!

Strawberry tree berries

Walking along the greenbelt, I spotted the dried flower stalks of a Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii). I love that even in death this plant offers us beauty. Floral arrangers work so hard to come up with something interesting when nature does it so effortlessly—and completely free.

Cleveland sage

Death and life are juxtaposed wherever you look. Across the path from the Cleveland sage above, I found this olive tree, very much alive and producing a good crop of plump fruit. I squished an olive between my fingers just to see what it feels like: juicy and a bit oily. I do love the silvery leaves and general appearance of olive trees but they tend to be very messy unless you are very diligent above removing the fruit.


At the end of our walk, close to our house, we had our animal encounter of the day. Yesterday, it was wild turkeys. Today, it was a large cat appearing from the thicket next to a walnut tree. Even though I’m sure it’s somebody’s pet, it didn’t look all that far removed from its feral ancestors.

Pet or not?

Even though we live in a housing development, nature is everywhere. I want to make a concerted effort to be more mindful of all the beautiful things around me.