Living in Japan for 3 years Justin Popp fell in love with the eastern asian lifestyle, and was inspired while walking amongst 30 year old giant bamboo forests.
Back in Australia, Justin worked as a marketing exec in Melbourne for 10 years in campaign management and social media but made the sea change to Newcastle with his young family in 2015.
The family is loving the excellent weather, great schools and vibrant community of Newcastle.
“Newcastle is a little like Melbourne,” Justin replies when we ask him about any similarities. “A mini Melbourne by the sea. Darby Street is Like Degraves, and The Junction reminds me of Brighton. Richmond may be Newcastle East”
Settling into Newcastle as a Stay at Home Dad, Justin began dabbling in his passion of bamboo. He set up a nursery in his backyard after sourcing an Australian Supplier and started retailing on Gumtree.
Now having grown to bigger premises, Justins passion and hobby has turned into a job that he loves; Zen Bamboo
We caught up with Justin and his plants recently and took a look through a few bamboo varieties he is growing here in Newcastle.
Justin has a relaxed outdoor vibe, with his “office” nestled among the plants and an enthusiasm for the job that only comes from doing what you love.
With horticultural training, he is expanding into landscape design, project managing bamboo gardens and services to contain and maintain the plants.
“Bamboo has gained a bad name due to the invasive nature of the old types grown here, and also dumping which then grows out of control.” Justin explains
“But we now have clumping varieties available and also management systems”
Clumping species and narrow species are planted with a root corridor carefully planned out and managed by Zen Bamboo. Barriers keep the plants growing in corridors, exactly where you want them.
There are over 1500 different species of bamboo. Some, like the Oldhami Variety can grow up to 12m high and 10cm in diameter.
110 varieties have edible shoots, like the P.Dulcis variety which are delicious in stir fry and have a higher protein content than any other vegetable.
Food is not the only thing that makes bamboo such a valuable plant in the asian economy – It is utilised for many things from building materials, arts and crafts, beer, clothing and manufacturing.
Here in Newcastle though, we value it for its beautful tall green form, swaying softly in the breeze.
Being named in the Guinness Book of World Records for worlds fastest growing plant, it creates instant privacy and a feeling of calm, tropical relaxation.
Technically a giant grass, bamboo is also excellent at carbon capture; so a pretty garden can also contribute to the protection of the earths resources!