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Why I love bamboo

patjennie

Jennie and Pat Caton

by Randall Beaird
I fell in love with bamboo the first time I saw it as a kid visiting my aunt Jennie and uncle Pat Caton at Burke, Texas (just north of Diboll).  They had a beautiful grove of Golden Bamboo out back by their square dance hall.

Now that I’m growing about 20 varieties on my farm, every Spring is one long Christmas morning. Many of my bamboos are the timber variety and will surpass 3″ in diameter, some 6 inches. Each year the canes come up a little bigger, so walking around every Spring is a lot of fun. When you see a 3″ cane first poking it’s head out it looks like an alien plant–it’s big. It’s not like a tree trunk that gets bigger each year. Bamboo can also be harvested after 3 years for construction and produces up to 35% more oxygen than hardwoods, not to mention absorbing four times more carbon. A lot of bamboo shoots are eaten by people, though the bamboo clothing industry is under fire for its current use of harsh chemicals to produce bamboo cloth.
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There are two types of bamboos, “runners” and “clumpers.” The clumpers generally need milder temperatures than 25 degrees, so nearly all of my bamboos are runners, and invasive by nature. A lot of people hate this about bamboo–it can cause lots of headaches if planted without a rhizome barrier or the ability to mow it on all sides. The canes are rather soft when they first sprout in the Spring, and can be mowed or knocked down. If you plant it on a property line, it’s not fair to expect your neighbor to mow it each Spring when it spreads onto their property. Most of my bamboos are very drought tolerant by their second summer, but I’ve found if I want them to increase in size each year they need some extra water from time to time. So I have irrigation lines reaching a lot of my bamboo, but I also carry 5 gallon water buckets to others.

Walking through a grove of timber bamboo is inspirational. My largest groves are about three years away from that. Many people have never seen timber bamboo up close, so having it planted along a busy highway between Huntington and Zavalla will help me sell a few plants.

Here’s some of my Arrow Bamboo–makes a great screen or houseplant.

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