It was a sunny winter’s afternoon; another perfect Sydney day. I was on my balcony enjoying the sunshine when I heard a familiar voice. It was my neighbour Tom.
“Hey Dean. My garden’s looking good,” he said in a proud and confident tone. “But I can’t help but feel there’s something missing.”
“Like what?” I asked.
Tom, massaging his chin and gazing out over his own version of the botanical gardens then leaned over his balcony looking me straight in the eye and in a firm voice said…”bamboo.”
“Explain?” I responded with a puzzled look.
“Privacy my friend, privacy,” Tom retorted.
I thought a moment, looking a little puzzled and then it hit me!
“Yes, privacy! Bamboo would give us the privacy we’ve been looking for,” I exclaimed although I wasn’t sure how.
Let me fill you in. I live close to the beach in a block of four town houses. Tom lives next door with Jenny and the other two dwellings are occupied by another two couples. Until recently, we had a full view of the water but always knew it would one day be gone since we bordered a large block of vacant land. As it turned out, a large two level block of apartments was given the all clear to be built by the local council and developers didn’t waste any time in getting it up.
Our view was gone but we knew that was coming. With the building up we had another problem…lack of privacy. Suddenly blinds which I had hardly ever used were being closed constantly to keep inquisitive eyes out. We searched for answers and found none until Tom uttered the magic word…bamboo!
“So Tom, what do you know about bamboo?”I asked in a not so confident tone.
“Plenty Dean, plenty”, he replied in an almost sarcastic fashion.
We both went downstairs into the garden area. Tom led the way. He reminded me of one of those gardening experts on television. I was almost in awe.
“Well Dean”,Tom said resembling some botanical icon that I could have put a dozen names to.”Bamboo comes in a heap of different varieties. See this corner over here, I think we’ll put in some 0ldhamii. Do you know it grows up to 40 feet?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’ve heard that!” The truth be known, I had no idea at the time.
Tom then quickly paced up and down the length of our fence.He stopped and looked at me and said in an authoritative voice.
“You know, for height I think we might put in some Chinese Painted Bamboo…or how about some Giant Buddha Belly.Do you know it also can grow to over 50 feet.”
“Amazing I thought,” looking high up into the sky then replying a little sarcastically.
“I just hope we’re not in any flight paths!”
Tom didn’t hear me. He was in bamboo heaven. He was kind of talking to me but to himself, if you know what I mean. He grabbed his chin again and spoke in a soft but stern tone.
“We’ve got to be careful with the running varieties of bamboo Dean.”
I hesitated slightly and then responded a little shakily… ” Your…you’re right. Can’t have that running bamboo taking off on us.” Then I thought to myself…”running bamboo? What’s running bamboo?”
Tom was in his own bamboo world.
“No problems. I like the look of Black Bamboo. Although it’s a virulent runner we can contain it in pots. On the other hand, I also like Temple Bamboo. It’s a slow runner and looks really good.”
Tom was taking notes and drawing a diagram of his bamboo project. He was inspired. I’d never seen him so excited about a gardening project. Yes he loved his gardening but I always got the impression it was a chore that had to be done. Not so on this on this occasion. He just couldn’t wait to get started.
And so began my first introduction to the wonderful world of bamboo. Several months later and it’s all starting to take shape. The bamboo is in the ground and growing at a furious pace. In 12 months time, we’ll have all the privacy we need. Our water view might be gone but you know, the trade-off is certainly worth it. Those chats on the balcony now start off with a hello, how are you and quickly turn into a conservation on bamboo as we marvel at this versatile plant and the problem it solved for us.