Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bamboos in Sydney

For all you bamboo aficionados, here’s an expanded page with photos of the bamboo varieties I saw in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The descriptions below are from the American Bamboo Society’s Species Source List.

(Hedge bamboo)
Height: 25 ft
Culm diameter: 1.5”
“Each node bears a large number of branches down to the culm base, making a dense hedge. Hardiest of the Bambusa, grown down to 12F by some in otherwise very favourable sites.”
Bambusa multiplex with bamboo fence

Height: 70 ft
Culm diameter: 4”
“A strong growing bamboo with very straight culms forming loose clumps. Also known as Dendrocalamus membranaceus.”
Bambusa membranacea Bambusa membranacea Bambusa membranacea 

(Giant timber bamboo)
Height: 55 ft
Culm diameter: 4”
“The most common giant tropical bamboo grown in the U.S. Culms straight and erect with relatively short branches. Leaves are rather wide.”
Bambusa oldhamiiBambusa oldhamii Bambusa oldhamii Bambusa oldhamii 

(Weaver’s bamboo)
Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 1.3”
“Tight clumps. An extremely handsome plant that arches gracefully. The thin-walled culms are used for weaving. Culm more slender than the typical B. textilis, nodding top, graceful foliage.”
Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis'
Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis'Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis' 

(Buddha’s belly bamboo)
Height: 55 ft
Culm diameter: 2.3”
“It becomes a dwarf with swollen internodes when grown in pots under dry conditions. In the ground it reverts to a giant with zigzag culms and branches.” (NOTE: The specimen below showed no dwarfism whatsoever!)
Bambusa ventricosa

(Painted bamboo)
Height: 50 ft
Culm diameter: 4”
“Common throughout the tropical world. Open clump, culms spaced a foot or two apart. Culm cuttings root very easily. Used for banana props. Similar to the species, golden yellow culms with green vertical stripes that look like drip marks. A very popular ornamental. Potted culm cuttings do not always survive.”
Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata'
Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata'Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata'Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' 

Height: 65 ft
Culm diameter: 8”
“From southern China. The large, dark green leaves are 10 to 16 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. Light green culms striped with dark green.”
Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung'
Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung' Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung' Dendrocalamus latiflorus 'Mei-nung'

Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 2”
“Tight clump. It has long (up to an inch) culm leaf ligules, narrow leaves. Light gray-green culms, white stripes.”
Gigantochloa albociliata

(Tropical black bamboo)
Height: 50 ft
Culm diameter: 3.5”
“From Java and Sumatra. Brown to black culms striped faint green. Dark green leaves. Sheath blades reflexed.”
Gigantochloa atroviolacea
Gigantochloa atroviolacea Gigantochloa atroviolacea Gigantochloa atroviolacea

(Black bamboo)
Height: 30 ft
Culm diameter: 2”
“Culms turn jet black after the first 6 months to one year. Popular because of its graceful habit and the sharp accent of its culm color. Said to grow larger in northern climates.”
Phyllostachys nigra

Labeled as such. Not clear which pleioblastus species it actually is. Any guesses?
UPDATE: Brad Salmon of Needmore Bamboo Co. told me that this variety is now called Pleioblastus fortunei. Thank you, Brad!

(Monastery bamboo)
Height: 40 ft
Culm diameter: 3”
“One of the most graceful bamboos known. Culm walls very thick, almost solid. Sheath persistent. In monasteries in Thailand.”
 Thyrsostachys siamensisThyrsostachys siamensis  Thyrsostachys siamensis

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday, 1/16/10: Last full day in Sydney; Balmoral Beach

Today is our last full day in Sydney. Tomorrow afternoon we’re flying home, back to reality and our Northern California winter. The weather these last two days has been wonderful; overcast and slightly breezy in the morning, with a little more sun and heat in the afternoon.

Heather, Katrina and the two younger offspring (Elena and Lucy) are off to the shops to buy stuff for our beach picnic later today. We’re planning on going to Balmoral Beach located in the spiffy suburb of Mosman, not far from Willoughby where the Ellises live. Thanks to its scenic location on Middle Harbor, it’s been popular with locals since the 1920s, with buildings such as the Balmoral Rotunda and the Bathers Pavilion dating back to that decade. It’s amazing how many beaches there are in Sydney, both harborside and along the ocean. I’ve never seen a city that has that many miles of shoreline—Sydney Harbor alone has over 150 miles of shoreline and 35 miles of city beaches! And that doesn’t include the Pacific Ocean beaches stretching from Palm Beach in the north past Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte in the middle to Cronulla in the south.

Map of northern ocean beaches Map of southern ocean beaches
Maps © IA Connections Sydney Australia

We got to Balmoral at 11ish, and to our surprise found a prime parking space. Reflecting the upscale nature of this slice of paradise, the fee was AU$8.00 for the first hour and AU$6.00 for each additional hour—certainly the highest we’ve paid so far but soooooo worth it.

There’s a large grassy area studded with palm trees between the houses, street and the beach proper, and we staked a claim to a shady spot for our picnic. The adults shared a chilled bottle of Audrey Wilkinson 2008 Rosé from the Hunter Valley (north of Sydney) and a very tasty basil-and-cashew dip that Katrina had prepared this morning while the kids quickly wolfed down their sandwiches and then headed off to go swimming.

As you can see from the photos below, the beach is picture perfect: fine sand with a pinkish tinge, turquoise water, sensuously nestled in this protected spot on Middle Harbor. Actually, there are two beaches, separated in the middle by island-like Rocky Point from where you have beautiful views of Middle Head across the harbor and the bush-like Grotto Point Reserve to the north.

Balmoral Beach, Sydney Balmoral Beach, Sydney

In the photos below, you can see the Bathers Pavilion, originally built in 1921 as a changing shed and after a multi-million dollar renovation now a fine-dining restaurant. The setting is so timeless that it’s easy to imagine Victorian-era couples in their finest dress strolling arm-in-arm down the promenade.

Balmoral Beach, Sydney  Balmoral Beach, Sydney

Balmoral is certainly no secret to Sydney locals. Next to our picnic spot, a group of people set up for what turned out to be a baby shower (complete with white table cloths and origami table decorations, not to mention tasty looking nibbles and cakes). Further down the beach, next to the Bathers Pavilion, there was a wedding in the Rotunda, located in a shady spot between huge trees. But the park and beach weren’t crammed with bodies, which I really appreciated. Since Balmoral is located on the North Shore, I’m not sure how many tourists actually make it here. For purely selfish reasons, I want Balmoral to remain as it is now, and not turn into another Bondi. (I’m sure zoning laws are on my side.)

I’m so glad that we saved this excursion to Balmoral until the end of our trip because it provided a fitting finale. Having seen quite a few Sydney beaches, both on the harbor and on the Pacific Ocean, Balmoral is hands-down my favorite. That’s quite a feat in a city that has more natural beauty than any other I’ve ever visited.

For dinner, we went to Bill and Katrina’s favorite restaurant in Willoughy called Bombe Alaska. It’s run by a Chinese couple, but the food is French/international fusion. The meal we had was not only delicious but also slow and relaxed, and it gave us a chance to celebrate our visit and the bond between the Bock and Ellis families. We were at the restaurant for a good 2 1/2 hrs and by the time we’d walked back home--just up the a couple of blocks--we all felt sated and content. Really, the perfect note on which to end our trip.

Tomorrow will be packing, maybe a last-minute walk, and then it’ll be time to head the airport for our flight home. I don’t expect that saying goodbye will be easy.

Friday, 1/15/10: Luna Park & Darling Harbor

Map of Luna Park, Darling Harbor

Today’s morning outing was to Luna Park, an old-fashioned amusement park at Milsons Point, right at the base of the Harbor Bridge. Fashioned after the original Luna Park on New York’s Coney Island, Sydney’s Luna Park opened its doors in 1935 and has been a beloved attraction for locals ever since. It offers a wide variety of rides, from a roller coaster (looks tame, but according to Heather is anything but) to a Ferris wheel to bumper cars and a carousel. Since my stomach doesn’t take kindly to the kind of violent agitation inflicted by roller coasters and the like, I opted not to buy a pass and instead watched the others being subjected to various kinds of abuses by mechanical contraptions. Apparently nobody was worse for the wear, just the opposite. Judging from the grins and happy faces, I’d say a very good time was had by all.

Here is the entrance to Luna Park. I don’t know about you, but I find the giant mouth swallowing people a bit diabolical.

Entrance to Luna Park, Sydney Entrance to Luna Park, Sydney 

Heather and Elena riding a bumper car.

 Elena and Heather riding a bumper car at Luna Park Bumper car ecstasy

Sophie, Lucy and Elena on the carousel.

Sophie on the carousel at Luna Park Lucy and Elena on carousel at Luna Park

Elena, Laura and two Luna Park employees who seem to have escapes from the set of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Elena and Laura Laura

Map of Darling Harbour

In the afternoon, Bill dropped the four Bocks plus Sophie off at Darling Harbor, a large pedestrian precinct just west of the Central Business District. Darling Harbor was originally part of the commercial port of Sydney and had become derelict by the 1980s. Sydney poured millions of dollars and huge amounts of design genius into the redevelopment of Darling Harbor, and as far as I’m concerned, their efforts were hugely successful. Darling Harbor is now home to a variety of shopping and entertainment centers, including the world’s largest IMAX screen (where, of course, Avatar was playing), the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, the Powerhouse Museum, the National Maritime Museum as well as large outdoor spaces for playing and just hanging out. The waterfront setting is spectacular, with the high rises of the Central Business District providing a stunning backdrop. We only spent about four hours there, but I could have hung out all day, just walking around, watching people.

Granted, Sydney is a unique city with geographical features that virtually no other city in the world can offer, but even our lowly Sacramento could have something along the lines of Darling Harbor if they ever put their minds to it (for example in the old railroad yard adjacent to Old Sacramento).

Here are just a few photographic impressions of Darling Harbor, in no particular order.

Blue wall and handrail, Darling Harbor, Sydney Blue wall and handrail, Darling Harbor, Sydney

Boardwalk, Darling Harbor, Sydney Boardwalk, Darling Harbor, Sydney

IMAX Theater, Darling Harbor, Sydney Central Business District from Darling Harbor, Sydney

Ibis Black bamboo

Eucalyptus bark Eucalyptus trunks

Allianz Building and Center Power Tower from Darling Harbor, Sydney Central Business District from Darling Harbor, Sydney

When everybody was hot and tired, we decided to hop on the ferry across the harbor to Milsons Point (where Luna Park is located). The ferry didn’t just zoom across the harbor just instead bounced around to four other stops, which was a lot of fun. As I’ve said before, riding the ferries has been one of the highlights of our time in Sydney, and I was so glad that I had this final opportunity.

Here are some views of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House from the ferry (top) and from Milsons Point (bottom).

Harbor Bridge from ferryHarbor Bridge from Milsons Point 

After dinner, we went over to friends of Bill’s and Katrina’s for dessert (merci mille fois for your warm welcome, Eleanor and Alain) and then Katrina took me around to Blues Point and Milsons Point for one final shot at photographing the skyline at night. Writing this, I feel bittersweet, knowing that we have only one full day left in Sydney. Over the last three weeks, Sydney has become home away from home, and I fallen head over heels in love with this city.

Harbor Bridge and CBD from Milsons Point Harbor Bridge from Milsons Point

 Opera House from Blues Point  Opera House from Milsons Point