Thursday, June 24, 2010

This bamboo is too happy.

The MulchMaid has bamboo and she likes it a lot. This isn't news to those of you who read this blog, since she's posted about her bamboo control methods in the past. What is news is that, sadly, the MulchMaid needs to get rid of her bamboo - soon.

It's become abundantly clear that this particular strain of running bamboo is stronger, sneakier and much quicker than we gave it credit for, or can keep on top of.

About three weeks ago, I did the tri-annual exploration of the sand barrier with an old pruning saw. I found a lot of runners and roots heading south through the barrier and beyond, as far as three feet from the mother plant.

Lots of the roots were deep, too.
This surprised me, because the sand was supposed to offer so little resistance that the bamboo would stay shallow if it traveled.

I filled this big pot with roots. I was concerned that the bamboo had managed to penetrate so far beyond the barrier in the months since my last cleanup.

About a week prior to my cleanup, I had thinned the bamboo substantially, to encourage the growth of fresh, thick canes.

Be careful what you wish for, MulchMaid: lots of fat, juicy bamboo sprouts are coming your way.

This area doesn't seem quite so threatening, but look what we discovered yesterday:

This bamboo shoot is coming up a foot past the end of the sand barrier. It's at least two feet north of the mother plant.

Considering I just cleared the sand trap three weeks ago, this looks bad.

In our last garden, the Mulch Man controlled the bamboo nicely with a twice-a-year thinning.  Maybe it's all the rain we've had, or maybe it's a different strain of bamboo, but it is acting way too happy.

The Mulchers will get some help removing it, but the first question is: what can adequately replace the bamboo in this narrow, partly-shady spot? As good as some people's containers of bamboo look, that's not a good solution for this area. The replacement needs to provide the same evergreen privacy screening, yet contend with the neighbor's pin oak on the other side of the fence. One idea is Nandina domestica.

Heavenly Bamboo has an evergreen, bamboo-like quality, hence its  common name. Summer blossoms turn into nice red berries in fall and winter.

And the new growth is a pretty reddish-green. However Nandina will take years to get tall enough for much privacy, at least compared to the bamboo.

Since our front garden already has a area planted in Nandina, I'd prefer a visually different solution. But it's a definite contender.

The Mulchers are open to other suggestions, so if you have an ideal candidate, please share here!


  1. Ohhh...A very familiar problem- I'm still digging out bamboo shoots. I went to "Joy creek nursery" for fast tall, evergreen plant privacy suggestions: Cholsya' aztec Pearl'.Pittosporum Tall& Tough' ( sounds good) cictus ' Elma" Ceanothus 'Victoria'. It'll take years to get to the 8-10 ft. height I need. c' est la vie...

  2. Oh I wondered how your bamboo was doing with that control method, i was hoping to do the same, but it sounds like the beautiful running bamboos are awfully good at spreading no matter what. Good ideas from linda. Have you been out to the bamboo garden ( They have lots to choose from, including plenty of clumping varieties. As far as clumping bamboos go, I like the looks of fargesias - they have a weeping form unlike the runners I like, but they don't have that ratty look that a lot of clumpers seem to get. I got a chusquea culeo from them a couple years ago, a more upright clumping variety, and it has put on some really good height, with a slow manageable spread. I guess I could talk bamboo all day. I'll have to do a bamboo post soon.

  3. I read your post a few days ago and put off commenting thinking that something would come to mind. Nothing has. Would you consider bamboo in containers? I know stock tanks are not everyone's look but you can bury them! I'm sorry you are having this issue. What a nightmare!

  4. I've never heard of the sand method. I bet this spring's rain is indeed the culprit as it seems a lot of our shrubs are MORE than happy to take over the world.

    I've got my running black bamboo in a galvanized washtub and it seems happy enough. I couldn't pry it out if I tried. Actually I have tried.

    One plant that will grow FAST, is evergreen and easy to propagate for more plants is Lonicera nitida. There is a species green which I keep pruned for my short hedges and the 'Baggessen's Gold' that I allow to grow tall not to mention newer variegated cultivars. This is not a vining honeysuckle but looks very similar to boxwood. It grows really fast and needs to be pruned regularly to keep it in check. I can email you photos if you like. I've also found that this Lonicera doesn't require tons of water in the summer. Always a plus.

    Lavatera and Miscanthus also come to mind however they would both have that brief cut-back time in spring. Laurel grows really fast too and has those shiny succulent leaves but it might grow too big for that spot. Abelia grandiflora is a great evergreen shrub but might not grow fast enough for your liking.

    These are my two cent's worth. My neighbors [nice but not exactly the the most plant savvy people] have recently planted bamboo on the other side of the fence between my house and theirs. It's just a matter of time before I'm dealing with it too.

  5. Maybe try a different barrier, or have you exhausted all the good barrier ideas? That first photo is so beautiful, and the bamboo seems perfect for an airy screen for that spot. The Mexican weeping bamboo, Otatea, a clumper, is too tender for you, I suppose, hardy to 20-25 deg and can grow to 20 feet.

  6. I have found the barberries to be really fast growers, with some surprisingly interesting varieties...especially at Dancing Oaks Nursery. I got a small Berberis jamesiana there in '07, and it is already 6 or 7' high. It has fabulous clusters of pearly yellow hanging berries in the fall. Why do we all pine for bamboo...just because it is so difficult?

  7. I've just bought a couple of the tall Camillias to add to my barrier, from Home Depot ( Jenzen Beach)- they are having a 50% off trees and shrubs sale.

  8. Some viburnums might work. Does it have to be evergreen? Do you actually need the privacy in the winter? If you consider some deciduous perennials your options for a fast grower will be that much more esp for a part shade situation.

  9. Linda - thank you! Your suggestions and HD tip were great, and we looked at all of them, particularly the Pittosporum. I like the Choisya and the Cistus a lot, but we need something that gets at least 6-8 feet. A regular Choisya Ternata might work. Checked out the sale at HD, too - some interesting camellias there but I think you must have gotten the best ones earlier!

    Megan - thank you! NICE bamboos at the Bamboo Garden. Several are looking like serious contenders. We are planning a trip out there today!

    dg- no, containers just aren't the answer here, although I have salvaged some of the removed bamboo for some barrels on the driveway.

    Grace - thank you. I've had poor luck with lonicera. I didn't know it was evergreen, though: guess mine didn't last long enough! The miscanthus and lavatera have the disadvantage of their downtime: we need coverage 24-7-365. And sorry about your future bamboo problem...hopefully it's a clumping fargesia?

    Denise - I think we're just not willing to do-over a third time with the same species. Too tired and just maybe getting a little smarter.

    PGG - yes, we must have evergreen: we need to screen from a direct view of the neighbor's dining room and upper windows.

  10. Oops, Ricki - thank you. I thought barberries were deciduous, at least the ones I've had in the past were. But your Jamesiana sound yummy.


Thank you in advance for jumping through the annoying but necessary word verification hoop to leave your thoughts!