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Designing with Bamboo Poles


Whole Bamboo Poles

Bamboo poles offer strength and versatility in a variety of scenarios. Top uses for whole poles: Garden pergolas, garden trellis, water spouts, retaining soil in raised borders and Japanese fencing.

Half or Split Bamboo Poles

These are bamboo poles cut lengthways in half. Along the length of each bamboo pole you can see the growing joints or “nodes” on the outside of the bamboo. Once cut in half, the piece of material or diaphragm that forms the internal structure of the joints is revealed. Top Uses for Half Poles (Gutters)
Cladding for indoor and outdoor bar areas and bar fronts; covering a wood store or other outdoor room; decorative rainwater gutters for garden rooms and summer houses.

Bamboo Basics

Below are some of the most common questions we are asked regarding our bamboo poles, gutters and slats. Understanding the structure and properties of this natural material will make it easier to think through your design. There are limitations, but there is usually a work-around!

  • Are the bamboo poles hollow?

    Yes, and no. Bamboo does have sections which are hollow, but it is not naturally hollow all the way through. There is a portion of each pole which has hollow gaps, called the ‘internode’, as shown in the diagram below.

    diagram showing the parts of a bamboo pole

    This space will vary according to the species of bamboo. You can hollow out most species of bamboo pole roughly with the end of a broom handle or a sharp spike. On longer lengths, such as a 3m or 4m pole reaching the middle internodes become more difficult.

    Where your design requires an internal measurement, always minus at least 1cm-1.5cm (10mm-15mm) from the external diameter to estimate the internal diameter. Bear in mind two elements of the material:

    The pole often narrows internally where the nodes appear and you may not be able to remove as much of the internal node material as you first thought.

    Bear in mind tapering (narrowing) on any pole will reduce your overall internal diameter considerably. In this instance take shorter lengths where possible.

    We are unable to guarantee internal diameters and do not have the time to measure these for you. Take a pole a few sizes up from the diameter of the item that needs to be inserted.

  • Which of your bamboo is the strongest?

    All our bamboo can withstand more weight than one might first think! (See the photo below!) As yet, no one has published a definitive guide to the tensile strength of each species of bamboo. However, we know from the way in which the various species are used in their native countries, which bamboo performs better in some designs than others. It all depends on what you are building/making/designing.

  • Does colour effect the strength of the bamboo?

    No not at all. Here’s a quick guide to selecting bamboo for your project:

    Moso (including Black Moso Type and Speckled) = fantastic all-rounder – available in the widest range of diameters 20mm-150mm. Most versatile of the species we sell. Can be used for interior: furniture, decorative fixtured and fittings, arts and crafts; exterior uses include garden structures, fencing, furniture, pond fixtures and other ornamental uses.
    Tali, Java Black & Guadua = Grows big – no diameters less than around 80mm. Woody texture. Used in construction from large buildings to smaller garden structures. Use in ornamental structures, cladding, roofing. Indoors, Java Black is particularly attractive for wall cladding, furniture and bar fixtures and fittings.

  • How are your bamboo poles different from garden canes?

    Garden canes are usually made from Tonkin bamboo which is grown in a different region of China to our Moso bamboo. It has thicker, spongy walls, and is a smaller species. Moso bamboo is classed as ‘Giant Bamboo’ and as such the bamboo poles come no thinner than around 20/25mm. All our other bamboo is also large species bamboo.

  • Can I use your bamboo as a plant and tree support?

    Yes, of course! All our bamboo is suitable for supporting plants and trees. Slimmer poles (20mm upwards) can be formed into trellises, bean-tepees, frames for perennials and tree pleaching. Medium sized poles (60mm upwards) can be used as for securing fruit trees as well as support for older saplings. Our medium to large poles are also ideal for making bigger structures that plants can grow through such as archways and pergolas.

    bamboo used in a pleaching frame and as a fruit tree support

    Left: Photo of pleached saplings available from Paramout Plants in London. Right: Large bamboo poles made into a frame for fruit trees.

  • What is the natural colour of bamboo?

    Soon after harvest the bamboo poles will still look green, a rich black colour or a mix of of green and brown depending on the particular variety. However, as they are stacked and allowed to dry out they will then turn to different colours.

    Moso bamboo – green to a light, yellow ochre.
    Black Bamboo – (Chinese) – dark black with green tinges
    Java Black (Indonesian) – black-brown, browns and green tinges
    Tali (Indonesian) –
    Guadua (South America)

  • Can I bend the poles to form an arch?

    Our bamboo has been dried prior to export and becomes less flexible. You will not be able to achieve the amount of bend required to make an arch shape from just one pole. Even our 2.4m slats will not bend enough for an archway. We would recommend instead an straight construction to form an ‘arch’ or aperture, as shown in the photo below.

    archway made with crossed over bamboo poles

  • Can I use a bamboo pole as a water pipe or spout?

    Yes, lots of our customers use bamboo poles as water pipes and spouts, usually in the garden. For example, the larger Moso bamboo poles upwards of 70/80mm and 100mm plus, are popular as a feature in larger ponds. The bigger pipes can sheath a water inlet pipe for Koi ponds and Japanese waterfall features.

    You will need to knock out the internal nodes first with a broom handle or sharp spike. For smaller patio water features such as the classic Japanese and Chinese angled cut spouts, a medium pole from 70mm downwards will all work just fine. Use a hand saw with fine tooth wood blade.

    water spout made from bamboo cut at an angle

  • Will a half bamboo pole work as a rainwater gutter?

    Yes, it can work but you will need to knock out the nodes to allow the water to run along. Also we recommend that you treat the inside with wood preservative to lessen the build of mould (some mould is inevitable as debris will attract its growth) and to help prevent splitting.

  • If I want to make a trellis can the bamboo just be tied together with string?

    Yes, many types of garden twine will do the trick. We sell a special Palm Fibre Twine in black and brown, which holds poles together well. You can easily create a simple grid formation or a diagonal pattern. You could also secure the bamboo trellis into a timber frame, as shown in this photo.

    bamboo trellis wooden frame left and right showing detail of tie method

  • Can I paint the bamboo poles green, white, silver or gold?

    Yes, and no. Moso bamboo is the most difficult to get paint of any type to adhere to. This is because it has a thick, waterproof outer skin. A spray paint or brush on paint whether oil based or water based will simply form beads and begun to run. Keying this surface is possible but not recommended as the result will be patchy. This may be adequate for your purpose if the finished piece is only to be used for a short time and/or display purposes.

    For a project which requires long term installation and is expected to be knocked or touched by people, then we would recommend the use of Tali or Guadua bamboo. Both these species have a rougher outer layer that is much easier to prepare and paint. We always recommend a suitable undercoat.

  • How do I fix the bamboo in the ground?

    Please visit our Installation FAQs to find the best methods for installing in the ground>>