Book Review of The Gardener’s Guide
American Bamboo Society Logo
Promoting the Beauty and Utility of Bamboo
The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Temperate Bamboos, Bell, Michael, Timber Press, Portland Oregon USA ISBN 0-88192-445-8 and David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, UK, ISBN 0 7153 9859 9, 2000. Timber Press edition USD $29.95 Buy it from your local bookseller.

Reviewed by Milo Clark, Pacific Bamboo Council, Pahoa HI USA

There are two kinds of bamboo people: those who love bamboo and those who lust for bamboo. Michael Bell’s new book is for bamboo lovers.

Lushly illuminated with numerous color photographs and crisp, detailed line drawings, Bell takes puzzlement out of bamboo and puts both beauty and knowledge in its place. Numerous color plates are worth the price alone.

Those with extensive bamboo knowledge will enjoy the occasional bloopers resulting from copy editing while those with less acute judgments will enjoy the pragmatic and extensive details with which Bell embellishes his work.

Also valuable are the sheer weight and clarity with which Bell addresses the questions we are too often afraid to ask. How do you tell the difference between Phyllostachys this and Semiarundinaria that? (see Plate I) How can I tell a rhizome from a tulip bulb? (See Plate II). How can I tell a bamboo flower from a bug’s nest? (See p. 40 and Plate III) What may I learn from culm shapes? (see Plate IV) What does a bamboo growing from seed look like? (see Plate V) What do leaf colors tell me? (see Plate VII and Plate VIII). What should I look for in branch formations? (see Plate IX). Is that leaf a real bamboo leaf? (see Plate X) What will that little bamboo in a pot look like in a few years? (see the many photographs throughout the book).

Those familiar with The Source List of the American Bamboo Society will find prose, poetry and pictures to flesh out the bare details found therein.

Coupled with glossary, lists, bibliography and decoders for bamboo jargon; Bell has crafted a splendid book for bamboo lovers. Those driven by bamboo lust already know it all.

Bamboo snobs will be delighted with the publishing lineage Bell extends: The Bamboo Garden by S.B. Freeman-Mitford, 1896 and Bamboos, a gardener’s guide to their cultivation in temperate climates, 1968.

At the time of publishing, Michael Bell is President of the UK Bamboo Society. His National Collection of over 165 species and forms was the subject of a “spectacular TV presentation” (reference undiscovered).

Timber Press publishes numerous informative and loverly books. 

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