Bamboo do you do

We use bamboo canes in our garden for lots of different things - staking up tomatoes and beans, supporting protective bags around vulnerable saplings... one memorable time, trying to defend myself against a particularly jerky wallaby (not my finest moment). But, until last spring, it never occurred to us that we could use bamboo that we'd grown ourselves.

Hubby and I were at Glenmore House last year and one of the things we loved about Mickey's kitchen garden is her exceptional use of structures. Specifically, seasonal garden structures. Long lengths of bamboo tied neatly into teepees or crafted into a frame. Wooden pegs holding nets in place, and old rusted tin cans keeping them from lifting in the wind. By summer's end, beans have wound their tendrils 12 ft up around the supports and tower above everything else. Tomatoes have consumed a cross-hatched frame. Berries are running wild, but not out of control, along a temporary fence. It makes a functional space look beautiful. 

Our kitchen garden is not quite so picturesque as the one at Glenmore House, but you get the idea.

Mickey mentioned that the bamboo canes in her garden are ones she's grown herself - primarily because she loves the long lengths that she can harvest (typically, commercial ones are only available up to 1.8m or 6ft long, presumably so that people can fit them in their cars). Until that moment, it had never occurred to either of us that we could grow and harvest our own bamboo for that purpose!

In fact, we already had bamboo growing in the garden. Several years ago we replaced an ugly corrugated metal screen outside our shower window (it's a floor-to-ceiling window) with slatted merbau. It's waaaayyyy prettier, but not quite so private. This is hardly a problem given our location in the middle of nowhere, but when we have visitors it can feel a smidge disconcerting to shower essentially in the open. We planted a maple in the garden bed just outside the window, which is great in the summer, but a bare trunk is hardly going to cover the important bits come winter... So planted bamboo behind the maple. 

Bamboo has a justifiably bad reputation for being an invasive species - it can be incredibly vigorous and the running varieties can easily get away from you and take over. For that reason, we picked a clumping variety, which are far less likely to take off, and we made sure that the garden bed was completely contained by edging to about 3 inches under the soil. So far so good - it has certainly thickened up nicely, and is doing it's job to screen the bathroom window, but it hasn't broken its garden bed confines.

Because it's so vigorous, we've had to cut it back several times in the past few years. And being the somewhat tardy gardener that I am, often this job hasn't happened until the canes are twice the size of the wooden screen. Which, of course, means we have now the perfect super long canes for our towering garden structures! Yay for the to-do list fail! 

I can't imagine that The Coopermarket is suddenly going to be as lovely as the kitchen garden at Glenmore House, but it'll be so nice to build our supporting structures from our own bamboo next spring.