By Mollie Luze
Iowa State University
In an effort to slow down and counteract our stressful lives, society has taken cues from the Asian culture including exercise techniques such as Yoga and the Feng Shui decorating style. Golden Goddess bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’), is the perfect plant to add a sense of tranquility and an exotic flair to the garden.
Bamboo is often associated with the Asian culture, and for good reasons. China is the largest producer of bamboo with over a third of all known species native to the area. The uses of bamboo as a raw material are quite diverse, including furniture, flooring, accessories, musical instruments, paper, food and even the leaves have certain medicinal purposes.
Harvesting bamboo has been practiced for centuries with bamboo artifacts dating as far back as 7,000 years. In fact, before the invention of paper, bamboo strips were used as writing material. Because it is a hardwood, bamboo has stood the test of time as a raw material because it is strong and also quite beautiful. Plus, bamboo has a much faster regeneration rate, making it more ecologically friendly than timber.
Bamboo is a member of the grass family Poaceae, with species that vary in height from 6 inches to 120 feet. Its jointed, often hollow stems, known as culms, grow from underground stems called rhizomes. There are two types of bamboo: clumping, compact growth close to the plant’s base, and running growth, growth that spreads from its rhizomes. Since bamboo is a tropical plant, it will not overwinter well in Iowa; however, the industry is working to develop hardier varieties for our Midwestern climate.
Bamboo adds summer interest to the home garden as a specimen planting or as a living screen. The bamboo chosen this summer for Reiman Gardens’ display, Golden Goddess, has yellow culms with attractive, contrasting green foliage. Golden Goddess is a clumping form admired for its graceful, arching growth. This variety only grows to 6-10 feet tall, making it quite manageable for the home gardener. Golden Goddess does best when planted in full to partial sun.
Golden Goddess Bamboo is featured this summer at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens in the Japanese Rock Garden, one of eight outdoor displays featuring plants and designs from around the world.