Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Living Memory

No gardener likes to see plants die (well most of the time anyway, and there are exceptions of course).

Especially if that plant has a memory attached to it.

Like the bamboo below which was given to us by our much missed friend Kevin, gone so soon at the young age of thirty nine due to glioma, a few years ago. He gave it to us when we were still living in our first house which has a postage stamp size garden. When we moved to where we are now naturally it came with us. It was one of the first plants we planted out when we started developing our current garden and the plants significance increased even more when Kevin passed away.



There was no way it wouldn't be with us....that is until it decided it won't be with us anymore.

It started to go on decline last year when noticeable most of its culms have turned brown and very little new growth were replacing it. Perhaps it was just underfed and underwatered? But the plants surrounding it are just fine, if not doing even better.

But months before we noticed it going downhill it was preceded by two other bamboos of exactly the same type in different locations of the garden mysteriously dying as well. Hmmm....

Usually bamboos die when they are severely neglected (obviously) and when their hardiness are tested beyond their limits. Or if they go into full flowering mode (which is almost certainly lethal to clumping or pachymorphic bamboos). But generally bamboos are very tough and rather hard to kill, at least coming back from the ground when conditions are favourable again.

But three of the same kind of bamboos in different locations dying almost in succession is just odd. The bamboo that we are talking about were all labelled as Fargesia murielae 'Jumbo'.

This bamboo flowered profusely and almost simultaneously worldwide during the eighties but have produced viable seeds which carried on to become the new generation of this bamboo. Most temperate bamboos flower infrequently and only after many, many years (earning the common notion they only flower once every one hundred years, which is not true of course) and severely sets them back, if not killing them altogether. This was the case with this bamboo but with the new batch that has done well and propagated since now has that insurance that it is unlikely to flower again for a very long time. Division is far too slow to propagate such a well performing bamboo. Tissue culture was much quicker.

But there was no sign of flowering, it just went into terminal decline. Puzzled and mentioning it to a friend who is a bamboo collector himself, he said there were several reports elsewhere of this phenomenon happening to the same bamboo recently, and funny enough including one of his!



It seems we all bought ours at around the same time and our consensus was it is likely a 'bad batch of tissue cultured plants only rearing it's ugly head now'. Now I don't know much about the intricate science of tissue cultured plants to make definitive comments about it here but I am aware that it can produce erratic results later on. I even remember a discussion many years ago about making sure we all bought a Phyllostachys nigra that came from a division of a known good plant. Rather than tissue cultured ones which apparently was very inferior in quality (not producing big culms at all).

Back to this bamboo, despite it's meaningful association and significance we have no choice but to dig it up and replace it with something else. It's a shame to lose and let go of a gift but photos and memories will always be there.

And besides, it's best to remember someone who are no longer with us with something that is alive rather than dead.

I'm sure you'll agree.

Mark :-)

35 comments :

  1. Very interesting about the TC aspect. I know 'Joe Hoak' agave has been attempted several times in TC and was also an unexpected failure--the plants came out plain green every time.

    Even if the plant is gone, your good friend's life will be honored as long as you chose to make the effort to remember him.

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    1. Scheffleras are apparently difficult to TC too, and it took awhile to crack even S. arboricola.

      Indeed Gail, and no effort at all needed, always remembered fondly :)

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  2. I, too, have just dumped a Fargesia murielae which faded away rather quickly. It was probably about 10 years old. Whatever you replace your plant with I can guess it will still remind you of your friend.

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    1. It's likely to be the same batch Don, interesting....

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  3. What an odd event - it's as if the plants had an expiration date coded into their genes (like the replicants in "Blade Runner"). Replacing the plant with something your friend liked or that reminds you of him can serve as a remembrance.

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    1. Indeed Kris, and I suppose that spot will be a reminder of him too so any replacement will be a memento :)

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  4. I know from research and experience that certain species will flower and die all at the same time, basically because they are all divisions taken from the same "parent" plant so are in fact the same plant. It is part of their life cycle. Our Sacred Bali bamboo, Schizostachyum brachycladum, did this. Your situation does seem a bit different though. Very odd to all just up & die without flowering.

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    1. Indeed Missy, even with multiple divisions a 'preprogrammed' fate of the parent plant will affect all of its divisions too. Odd about this bamboo though...

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  5. How bizarre! Plant shopping for a replacement that reminds you of your friend Kevin sounds like a wonderful outing. I can't wait to see what you find.

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    1. That'll be the way to go Loree and I'm looking forward to getting that replacement already :)

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  6. I'm sure I heard about something similar on Gardeners' Question Time some time ago. Vaguely, I remember it was something to do with the garden industry all using the same clone, so everyone's bamboo died at once. But I've also just read an excerpt from "Demons in Eden" by Jonathan Silvertown which says of bamboos Sasa Nipponica in Japan "How a whole hillside of bamboo, composed of many unconnected, individual clones synchronises this act of sex and suicide is not known." Could yours have flowered very discreetly without your noticing?

    I'm sorry you've lost one with such sentimental attachment but what you buy to replace it will remind you of him too.

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    1. Interesting to hear that a similar, perhaps even related topic has been discussed before of GQT before Helen. There is a possibility that is the case. Same clone demise or failure in the TC process somewhere? All a bit of a mystery at the moment.

      No sign of flowering at all I'm afraid. We've also had bamboos that flowered before, the clumping one died but the running one (which only partially flowered) was almost unscathed with the phenomenon and just carried on as usual afterwards.

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  7. Hello Mark and Gaz,

    Plants, gardens and people......they all have their seasons and when they come to an end, one must move on. Life is for the living. It is sad that your friend who gave the bamboo to you is now dead since that makes the memory so much more poignant. But, just as he continues to live on in your memories and thoughts, so you must have a living reminder of him in the garden.

    The space which will result will give you new opportunities. Perhaps a new idea altogether?

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    1. Indeed Jane and Lance :) And whatever new plant that will replace the dead one will remind us of him as much as the other one.

      Not a big enough space to play with but perhaps the new idea would be to put in a new and different plant and not another bamboo.

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  8. It's always sad to loose a treasured plant but even more poignant in the situation you have described. You have made the right decision though and can now go out and make a special choice of a new plant to remind you of a dear friend. Enjoy choosing.

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    1. Indeed Anna and looking forward to choosing and acquiring a new plant to replace this one :)

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  9. Oh I´m sorry for your lost. It is so weird that they all died at the same time! very interesting and I wish you could know the exact reason!

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    1. It's all a bit of a mystery Lisa but hey one moves on. Looking forward to the new plant that will replace it!

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  10. I'm quite familiar with the look of dead bamboo, but the cause is always known here: cold. It's frustrating indeed when plants die for no apparent reason, especially hardy ones. I'm hoping the TC vs. "natural" bamboo propagation question will be answered someday, as right now TC bamboos have a bit of a bad reputation with bamboo collectors.

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    1. Indeed Alan, TC is proving unpopular already amongst bamboo aficionados...

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  11. Strange indeed. While this particular bamboo has died, your memories of Kevin will live on. Looking forward to seeing what you plant in this space!

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    1. So many options out there Peter, excited!

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  12. It is so comforting to have a plant which holds such dear memories, and it can help to deal with the grief, as it is something tangible which remains. I hope you find a suitable replacement which gives you solace.

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    1. Thanks Jane :) whatever goes there will be a lovely reminder too

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  13. Maybe aliens tried to make a crop circle out of it before they realized that bamboo isn't suitable for that? Just kidding. TC plants often get a bad rap, but I don't know if that's justified or not. Still, this is quite a mystery.

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    1. I don't dip into the TC thing in depth to know with big certainty but you do hear things Gerhard. Who knows ;)

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  14. It's always sad when a plant with sentimental value dies, but what a weird occurrence that they all died at the same time... Who knows - maybe this was some sort of cosmic reminder from Kevin, to live life to its fullest, and keep trying new things? I bet you will find something utterly amazing to put in its place, that will safe keep all those wonderful memories!

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    1. You're making me wonder now Anna, hmmm...

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  15. That's sad, and also strange given this wasn't an isolated case. Will you be replacing it with something completely different or a new version of the same plant?

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    1. We'll be replacing it with something different Sunil :)

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  16. Oh how sad :( but definitely better to put something new in its spot, that will still remind you of your friend. Sorry to hear that.

    After having lost a whole bunch of plants lately, I feel your pain. It's so disappointing, but somewhat interesting, that it is bamboos in your garden that have all turned around the same time. Wouldn't it be great if they could tell us what we were doing wrong (in my case) or what they needed?

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    1. Indeed Amy, things will be easier then :)

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  17. So sorry about your bamboo. Losing plants, even special plants, is a part of gardening. I have learned to move on and plant something new, which always eases the loss.

    Do bamboos get virus?

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    1. They can Debs, although non lethal as far as I'm aware of...

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  18. I've come late to this post but will share a couple of co-incidences. Years ago, my mum gave me some marigolds she had left over. They were more like shrubs: so big! Each year I collected seed and the following year grew even bigger plants. But the year mum died, none of the seeds germinated. My partner's mother gave us some plants. Same-ish story! They grew away happily for years, getting bigger and bigger each year. But the year she died, they all died too. Co-incidence? Fate? Who knows! It's one of the mysteries of the universe.

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