Bamboo John and the Green Children

9 04 2009

A few days ago I mentioned finding a craigslist post for free bamboo.

AJ and I have both grown quite fond of this beautifully robust member of the grass family and have incorporated it into many of our projects. Our first and most dramatic bamboo construction was the fence made of timber bamboo that AJ built between our concrete pad and the parking space. We found local property owners who allowed us to harvest from their huge bamboo patch. We expected that it would bleach out in the sun and probably rot from being placed in the ground; both of which it has done. The old fence has given us a couple of good years, but now it’s time to replace it with a better version. This go round we plan to cure the bamboo and treat with stain and/or sealer. For a period our fence was a rich golden color and we hope to preserve some of this natural beauty this time.

I have used small diameter bamboo to border my raised garden bed, The Oasis. Although I’m not as concerned with its longevity, I would like to keep it looking as good as possible. With Oasis2 in the works I have been in the market for a fresh crop of the small bamboo to match the second bed to the first.

AJ doesn’t treat me like a princess. He doesn’t go out of his way to hold doors open for me, nor does wait on me hand and foot. He isn’t really the type for doting at all. This is fine, because doting makes me uncomfortable if not squeamish. What he does do is go out in his boat, risk life and limb on alligator and mosquito infested islands to cut wild bamboo for my garden. The border for The Oasis took him three grueling trips, after which he cleaned up and cut the pieces into perfectly sized lengths for my project. Now, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!

Of course, all of this was before Bamboo John. I called John’s number from his craigslist posting.

“Cut and carry. Several species to choose from. Diameters ranging from 1/2 to 3 inches. Lengths to 50 feet.

This stuff is too good to waste. You can build with it or make crafts.

I have extension cords that reach almost anywhere on these two downtown acres. Reciprocating saws work best, especially if you use a 9 inch pruning blade that will cut in both stroke directions.

Call or email me for the address.”

If all businesses treated their paying customers as well as John Rogers treats those to whom he gives away bamboo there would be no need for customer service call centers. We first visited his property to have a look at what he had and put together a plan to come back with the truck and harvest some bamboo.

John took us on a tour of his huge property pointing out numerous species of bamboo, calling out their scientific names and telling us how each was useful. “This one has nice long nodes…This one is perfect for making flutes…This one is great for making fences, but you have to watch out for the thorns.” I didn’t know bamboo came in a thorny variety. John explained that he once had over 44 species of bamboo. We saw at least 20 on our initial visit.

What I learned immediately is that Bamboo John is as generous and thoughtful as he is enthusiastic about bamboo. He had piles of neatly cut and stacked material on his property set aside for people like us. He mentioned that he didn’t want to set them by the curb because the big claw used by the yard waste pickup crew would destroy them.

We came two days later to harvest our take. Again, John overwhelmed us with his politeness and generosity. He offered up his own tools and gave suggestions as to how to best cut it down. He had a pile of bamboo by the roadside with a “Free” sign next to it. I have seen a lot of bamboo by the road, but never have I seen someone go so far out of their way to gift this wonderful resource to others. Perhaps we were doing him some great favor (although I can’t imagine how we helped him much with the minimal dent we made by trimming back a couple of patches) because he continually shared his extensive horticultural knowledge and insight.

Visiting Bamboo John’s property was like a hands-on educational tour of a botanical garden. Upon overhearing us mention a wicked looking spiky tree, he explained that it was an indigenous species called “Prickly Ash” and that Native Americans used it to treat toothache, thus its nickname “The Toothache Tree”. Next he pointed out two huge leafy trees and invited us to “turn our lips purple” by helping ourselves to the ripening mulberries. As a kid in Colorado, I spent a good deal of my time in mulberry trees enjoying their verdant shade and sweet juicy offerings. The reward of picking a crop of these treats kept me going through the arduous bamboo harvest.

John checked on us periodically, offering tidbits of horticultural wisdom with each visit. He is the type of person I would love to sit with over a bottle of good wine and discuss philosophy and nature. He exudes kindness, politeness and a deep sense of unassuming wisdom. I lost count of how many times he thanked us for harvesting his bamboo. At one point John inquired as to whether or not we had children and we told him we didn’t he said “Well, you can have green children” in reference to our love of gardening. This statement made caused me to think that he was thanking us for rescuing his own “green children” from the landfill and putting their lives to good use with our own projects.

We exchanged email addresses and even before I had completed this post John contacted me with information about the Rare Fruit Council of Brevard, where people of like mind meet to share information and plants. If they are anything like Bamboo John you can guarantee that I’ll become a member!

John Rogers AKA “Bamboo John”. (Notice the bamboo themed shirt)

Bamboo-John

Getting Started.

Getting-Started

A truckload of small and large diameter bamboo.

Truckload

An interesting variety. Perhaps John will tell us the name of this one.

Cool-Bamboo

Ever since AJ and I first saw this lovely golden bamboo with green stripes, we have been longing for a cutting so that we could try to start our own patch. Not only did John offer up a large chunk, he gave great instructions on propagation.

Yellow-Cutting

Closeup of the golden bamboo. I hope John will provide proper names for all of these photos.

Yellow-Detail

This is the golden bamboo after I cut up the culms and stuck in the sand as recommended. Now we keep our fingers crossed in hopes that they take root. Once they being to grow we will move them…where? I’m not quite sure.

Yellow-Planted

More starts of the golden bamboo.

More-Yellow-Bamboo

The mulberry trees. John mentioned that they can be grown from cuttings and even offered to share some starts once he gets them going.

Mulberry-Trees

After the truck was full of bamboo and I had cleaned up our debris I dove into the cool darkness beneath the leafy giants and collected as many mulberries as I could fit into my big coffee mug. I have found a simple and tasty sounding recipe for mulberry cobbler and hope to introduce AJ to a tremendous fruit the likes of which he has never sampled.

Mulberries

All in all, a wonderfully educational and exhausting day. Thanks Bamboo John!

Check out my next post to see the driver I encountered on the way home. The Universe did not deal them such nice cards as we got today.

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4 responses

11 04 2009
nobbydamus

come over to my garden, i can’t cut the stuff down quick enough.

11 04 2009
trailerparkqueen

I read your post about that. I guess the running bamboo can be a real nuisance. There must be a way to profit from it. If I lived in the UK I’d clean out your bamboo in exchange for some eggs. Wish I had chickens!

12 04 2009
Good food and Good Company « Trailerparkqueen’s Weblog

[…] I made Mulberry Vinaigrette with the fresh mulberries from Bamboo John. […]

18 04 2009
Funky Chicken Farm - Part 1 « Trailerparkqueen’s Weblog

[…] because I knew I’d want to buy more. During our conversation I learned that Suzanne knows John Rogers (AKA “Bamboo John”). It seems that he is a sort of local gardening guru (which I already […]

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