Bracy Hall Is New Home to Giant Timber Bamboos

April 01, 2010


The Mount Union College Physical Plant staff had an unusual delivery Tuesday, September 30, but with a little help from some knowledgeable friends and after approximately 8 hours of work, they were able to successfully settle the contents into their new "home" in Bracy Hall.

The delivery was of giant timber bamboos from Florida, that have been planted in Bracy Hall as part of an impressive display standing three floors high along the center stairway. The process of transferring the bamboo, some of which were over 30 feet high, from the truck it arrived in to the planter in Bracy Hall took a team of workers.

Ken Gallt is a landscape architect from Foliage Design Systems in Chicago who helped facilitate the entire process. He works frequently with bamboo as an interior design element and with the world-renowned Tornello Nursery in Florida, which is where he obtained the giant timber bamboo for Bracy Hall.

"Many architects use bamboo as an architectural element. It has wonderful character," said Gallt. "The Tornello Nursery is internationally known for growing these types of plants and ships worldwide. They grow 200 varieties of bamboo." Gallt spent
time on campus last week planning the entire process - from mapping out how they would get the giant bamboo into the building to how much manpower and materials they would need.

"The tough part is you are dealing with a 30 - 40 foot package," said Gallt. "Everything had to be thought out from the very beginning of the process, which included wrapping and preparing the bamboo and the trip up from Florida."

Enviroscapes of Louisville provided the materials and labor for the project. According to Todd Pugh, president of Enviroscapes, 7.2 tons of washed gravel was installed at the bottom of the planter along with 9 tons of specified soil. The planter was mulched with gray shale which makes a nice contrast with the bamboo canes. Enviroscapes provided 55 hours of manpower to install the bamboo.

The bamboo was brought in through the front door, and then with the help of ropes and some flexibility on the part of the plants, these 35-foot giants were positioned in the bed.

"The bamboo is flexible?.to a point," said Gallt. "We had only a few that snapped, so we were pretty successful with the transfer from the truck to the bed. The 30-35 foot plants were just the right size. Forty-foot would have been very difficult and the 50-foot would have been impossible. I have seen architects stop the progress of a building midway through to allow the bamboo to be placed inside before bricking the building up completely." 

The giant timber bamboo is actually from the same family as the grass in a typical suburban lawn. But these grasses are the size of trees with the strength of steel. The bamboos are actually evergreens, and some varieties can tolerate temperatures of 10
degrees below zero. The bamboo from the Tornello Nursery is harvested in South Carolina or Georgia, and then taken to Florida, where it becomes acclimated to a constant temperature and does not go through cold cycles. This allows it to be transplanted indoors in climate with a contact temperature, or outdoors in warmer areas of the world.

"The bamboos are like people. They grow for a period of time and then they stop," said Gallt. The plants in Bracy Hall, some of which are nearly touching the roof, will not grow any taller.


Laurie Lipely of Physical Plant has been designated as "caretaker" of the bamboo. She will take care of watering the plants and fertilizing, as well as "housekeeping," as these plants tend to drop leaves often.

"I think that it is only fitting that the first campus building to have interior plants should be this one - the natural sciences building," said Gallt. "What other plant gives that kind of look and texture? We shifted the lights so they reflect off of the ceiling, and it looks great."

In addition, Gallt says that indoor plants help purify the air and take out carcinogens. "These plants are like little vacuums or scrubbers. People feel better when there are plants nearby. They do so much for the environment that they should be everywhere."

To The Top!