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Bamboo is hardy and easy to grow

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By Debby Looney, our weekly gardening expert

Is there such a thing as a plant which ticks every single box? I don’t think so. But a plant which is one of the most versatile I can think of is certainly bamboo.

There is a bamboo for every need, and every type of garden, really, their only drawback is that they do not flower. On the other hand, they are hardy, easy to grow, evergreen, stay true to their size, provide sound, colour and movement, and are so unique they do not compete with other plants. The fact that they do not flower is, for me, one of their strengths, as they provide a beautiful backdrop for flowers in the summer and fill the emptiness in the winter without one having to worry about clashing colours!

CHOOSE CAREFULLY

Bamboo root systems are quite shallow, so while they do grow almost anywhere, they do best in fertile, moist, but not waterlogged, soil, which has been dug over. They benefit greatly from an annual mulch, and prefer to be sheltered from extreme wind. That said, I have a bamboo in a pot which dries out regularly, is forgotten about and gets the full force of the wind, but is still alive. Not growing, perhaps, but not dead either!
The important thing with bamboo is to choose carefully and do the research. There are a thousand plus varieties and some will naturalise and crowd out other plants. If you are in doubt, line a very large hole with strong plastic, into which you cut some drainage holes, this should keep your plant in check.

HARDY

The easiest and one of the largest bamboo is Pseudosasa japonica. It is classed as a runner, and needs space. I do a yearly trim around the rhizomes and this keeps it tidy. It has mid green, olive coloured culms, (stems of a bamboo), and dark green foliage growing to over 5m. It is incredibly hardy. A very popular bamboo is Phyllostachys nigra, the black bamboo – so called for its beautiful dark culms. It grows well in a large pot, but if it is planted in the ground it will reach 5m also. Another very hardy one to try is Phyllostachys aurea, the golden bamboo. Its canes are very recognisable, having a swelling below each node.
Medium sized bamboos, about 2m, are ideal for containers, or as screens. Fargesia dracocephala is a very hardy plant, which copes well with a level of neglect. It has dense, dark foliage which makes it ideal as a hedge. Fargesia ‘Jumbo’ is a firm favourite and with its arching habit it is very graceful.

EASIEST TO GROW

Yet another use for bamboo is groundcover and to this end Indocalamus tessellatus is possibly the easiest to grow and reaches a maximun of 1m tall. It will happily cover as much ground as you will give it. It is a bit of a slow starter if the soil is heavy, but once it gets going weeds don’t stand a chance! Another excellent choice is Sasa veitchii which is very dense and fast growing. Its leaves turn pale brown around the edges in winter, giving it a variegated appearance.
Lastly, there are a few unusual types to look out for. Shibatea kumasaca is a groundcover plant, which can be clipped into formal hedges and shapes as it makes small dense clumps. Chimonobambusa quadrangularis is a 3m tall specimen with square stems – it grows in distinct clumps and its leaves are very glossy, and, well, shaggy looking! Hibanobambusa ‘Shiroshima’ is a beautiful variegated plant, with vibrant yellow and green streaked leaves. It is extremely hardy.

So, whether you need a privacy screen, groundcover, specimen plant or pot plant, there is a bamboo out there for you!

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Photos from Kerry Ladies Football team homecoming at Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday night

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Danny Healy-Ray, Patrick Connor-Scarteen, Minister of education Norma Foley and Francis Flynn pictured at the Kerry Ladies homecoming on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Senior Football managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long pictured with Elaine Kinsella Radio Kerry at the Fitzgerald stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGogh
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo : Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kerry Ladies Homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Faces in the crowd. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Faces in the Crowd. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Cllr Donal Grady and John Francis Flynn at the Kerry Ladies homecoming. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Kayleigh Cronin (2nd from left) pictured with her teammates at the Kerry Senior Ladies Homecoming at the Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
Selina Looney Kerry Ladies Chairperson (front centre) pictured with Kerry players at the Kerry Senior Ladies Homecoming at the Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday. Photo: Tatyana McGough
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
31 July 2022; Kerry supporters during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Photos from Kerry Ladies Football team homecoming at Fitzgerald Stadium on Monday night
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Keep indoor plants out of full sun

By Debby Looney, gardening expert I was sitting in the dining room looking out at the garden through sheets of rain, when something caught my eye; a dead plant. I […]

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

I was sitting in the dining room looking out at the garden through sheets of rain, when something caught my eye; a dead plant.

I shifted my focus, looked around me, and observed quite a few plants close to the point of no return! Indoor plants are easy to forget about, especially when the weather is fine. It is hard to believe but several spider plants, an orchid and a Saintpaulia ended up on a certain compost heap this week.

Houseplants do not need a huge amount of care during the summer months, but there are a few things we must not forget! For example, the most obvious is watering. This is the main growing season for houseplants, so watering is essential as is adding some fertiliser. I use specific feeds for my plants, as the balance of nutrients needed can vary hugely depending on the type. As you can imagine, a large, leafy plant will have different requirements to, say, a cactus, or a gerbera. Most plants prefer to dry out slightly between watering, though not as much as I had let them dry out.

Most indoor plants prefer to be out of full sun as they scorch easily. In particular, leafy plants are susceptible to this. Cacti and succulents are ideal for south facing windows during the summer months. Move any leafy plants to a spot away from south facing windows where they can enjoy a more stable temperature and a slightly shaded light.

Often when plants are under stress, both indoors or outdoors, they become prone to disease, a bit like ourselves. For example, plants which dry out frequently are a prime target for whitefly. They often go unnoticed until there is an infestation, at which point you will see woolly cocoon like clusters, as well as clouds of tiny white flies. Blackfly and greenfly are also common pests indoors. The best course of action, after prevention, is to spray the plant at regular intervals with a pesticide. As it is indoors, I would strongly recommend the use of organic spray, or even soapy water. Alternatively, use a pesticide which can be watered onto the soil, such as ‘bugclear ultra’, as this will have a systemic effect.

This time of year is also suitable for repotting your houseplants, if not done in spring, as they will still get a few months of benefit and strong growth. I mix my own compost as I generally have quite a few to repot. I mix four parts good quality compost, one part sharp sand, one part perlite and one part vermiculite by volume. When repotting cacti and succulents I reduce the compost to two parts, and when repotting orchids, I substitute the vermiculite and perlite with two parts fine bark mulch. I never use homemade compost, as I find there are a lot of insects and ‘other creatures’ in it which is fine used outdoors, but I don’t want to invite too much wildlife inside! It is possible to sterilise homemade compost by steaming it, but this is quite an operation, one which I have never undertaken. Alternatively, there are specialist composts available for every type of houseplant. When repotting, use a pot which is about two sizes bigger, unless the plant is a very vigorous one.

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