Some of my recent posts have had information about Hardy Bamboo in them. Much of the information for those posts have come from two Bamboo books. I thought that I’d post about them too, and do a kind of mini book review, comparing the relative benefits of each.
‘Hardy Bamboo’ by Paul Whittaker
The first of the books that I read was by Paul Whittaker. Paul runs his own bamboo nursery, and exhibits at shows. I first came across him whilst looking for some of the bamboo species that I wanted to use in my Forest Garden. His book ‘Hardy Bamboo: Taming The Dragon‘ is the one that I use for information about propagation, size, form, and to find out how invasive a species is. As Paul is based in the UK, the information in his book is more relevant to my own climate conditions. His bamboo nursery is located in Norfolk, and so has a similar climate to mine (Lincolnshire).
There are some really good diagrams of the different types of Rhizome structure, form, structure, and the terminolgy specific to bamboo. This is really useful.
‘Hardy Bamboo’ doesn’t include aspecies that will not grow in the UK Climate. That isn’t to say that all of the species mentioned in the book will cope everywhere. Some of the plants listed are not hardy enough for the far North, or East.
This chapter may seem to lack detail, but it reflects Paul’s ‘Tough Love’ approach to growing bamboo. I like it as most of us don’t really have the time to pamper out plants. Knowing that you don’t need to is a real bonus.
The book gives a lot of information about the appearance of the different bamboo species, and includes how to display plant or display them to their best advantage. Whilst this may be a lower priority to some, there’s no reason why a smallholding, or garden, cannot be beautiful as well as productive.
The propagation of the three main forms of bamboo is only covered in outline. I don’t know why that is. From my own experience it’s relatively easy to propagate bamboo, proving that you don’t cut the rhizomes into sections that are too small.
The biggest drawback for this book is the absence of any useful information about uses of hardy bamboo beyond their appearance. As a Permaculturalist and Smallholder, I want to get as many functions as possible from every plant that I grow. Bamboo are no different.
‘Bamboo for Gardens’ by Ted Meredith
Ted Meredith’s book is written from a US perspective. It has a different feel to it, and seems to be aiming for a slightly more ‘knowledgeable’ reader.
This bamboo book has much more detail in the cultivation and propagation sections. It also devotes more page space to the structure and terminology than ‘Hardy Bamboo‘ does. This is useful once you have taken the ‘plunge’ and started out with bamboo.
The most useful aspect of this book is the focus on the different uses that bamboo has. My initial interest was in edible bamboo, but the ability to use it in habitat creation, Chicken Scavenging Systems, Forest Gardens, meant that I needed to know more. ‘Bamboo for Gardens‘ provides that information. I now have plans to use my bamboo for building structures, chicken bedding, building soil fertility, as well as eating the shoots.
The only negative aspect of this book for me is that some of the bamboo species listed are not hardy in the UK. That’s not a problem if you live in a milder climate zone, but it does mean that for a UK based reader some of the contents are irrelevant.
If you are primarily a gardener, looking for bamboo species to use for their appearance, then ‘Hardy Bamboo’ will contain all of the information that you will need. If you need a book that concentrates on the uses of bamboo, then ‘Bamboo for Gardens’ will be a better option. If, like me, you are a book lover, then having both available to refer to is ideal.
Other Sources of Information
Martin Crawford of The Agroforestry Research Trust has a 48 page booklet for sale, but I haven’ seen it, so cannot add it to this book review.
Plants for a Future has a searchable database that includes hardy bamboo species, but you need to know the name of the species that you are searching for. Good to see if the bamboo species that your local garden center, or nursery, is selling is worth buying.