The making of a bamboo bonsai
Yesterday was a Nordic day at Dokmai Garden. By coincidence, we had 10 Swedes, 2 Finns and one Norwegian visiting. In addition we had one Thai and one Australian.The Swedish group including one Thai had shipped their motorbikes to Malaysia and then they drove their motorbikes to Thailand, passing Dokmai Garden en route to the Mekong. The Finnish boys are students of our tropical gardening school, and our Norwegian visitor was Erik Ask, preparing for his upcoming vernissage.
The Australian visitor is a celebrity: Greg Braun aka Mr Bamboo. He is a tropical bamboo specialist and he has been here a couple of times before. We enjoyed a late afternoon lunch together, and then Greg helped us preparing a bamboo bonsai with a small specimen of the temperate Chinese black bamboo Phyllostachys nigra (Poaceae), which I obtained at Doi Ang Khang a long time ago. The ragged calcareous stone was obtained from a hilltribe village in the vicinity of Doi Ang Khang.
Greg simply lifted the bamboo out of its plastic bag and then he tied it to a stone using a rope. He trimmed some of the old culms and roots and we added a compost/sand mix to the original clay soil. Greg was a bit worried the roots may cover the stone and invade the lawn, but I think that since this is a temperate bamboo species we should be lucky if it grows at all. The saturation of water during the rainy season may also kill runners so that the plant has to retreat to its stone. One can also consider frequent pruning to make the bonsai look like a bamboo grove on a rock. The bonsai is situated in the shade under the western longan near the bamboo gate at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. This will be a very interesting experiment and we encourage our readers to share experience on the making of bamboo bonsais.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell