Bamboo is one of China's "four noble plants." The others are: orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum. In Chinese Flower Arrangement (1956) H. L. Li says of bamboo, "As the culm is hollow inside and straight outside, it symbolizes humility and fidelity. It will bend in the storm, but never break; it suggests constancy and wisdom, the noble and scholarly character. And as it becomes stronger when it grows older, it is also an emblem of healthy long life…. It is a favorite plant with scholars and painters, and is intimately associated with the home. Its presence not only beautifies the surroundings, but also gives inspiration to the soul." In Garden Plants of China, Peter Valder says, "…bamboo has been seen to symbolize gentlemanly qualities, lasting friendship, longevity, and hardy old age…. Its upright hollow stem is equated with rectitude, resilience, and humility. Its hardiness, vigor, clumping habit, and usefulness were associated with renewal, perseverance, and mutual support." Valder also mentions these qualities as associated with bamboo: integrity, peace, tranquillity, and filial piety.
Bamboos by Recht and Wetterwald is a classic. First published in German in '88, it was translated into excellent English in '92. This book is thorough, and the top-notch photography by Wetterwald makes it a true bargain.
Bamboo is a great houseplant, and this book has much to offer (with detailed instructions and color photographs) for houseplant species. Recht suggests the most suitable bamboos for houseplants. She also makes the point that they need a lot of light. Bamboo is also appropriate for balconies and roof gardens. Recht is quick to point out, "It is very important with bamboos in containers not to let the soil dry out. The soil in the container will warm up much more quickly than in the garden, and also dry out quicker, and in addition the plant's transpiration rate will be higher." This is a very key factor in successful bamboo culture, and she hits the nail on the head.
Read this delightful book and you'll start to look for someplace in or around your home to grow a clump of bamboo. Bamboos is a wonderful combination of inspiration and information.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 1999 (original German edition, 1988), (800) 327-5680, www.timberpress.com, 0-88192-268-4, 128 pages, drawings and color photographs, hardback, $32.95.