Friday, July 9, 2010

The bamboo saga continues

As I posted in June, we were scared of our running bamboo. It was far more vigorous than the type we had at our previous home. In spite of our trenching sand trap method, the bamboo was traveling - too fast.

We had the option of some cheap digging labor. So we jumped on it and had ALL our lovely bamboo removed.

Gaaaahhh! All our privacy. All our lush green. Three years of growth. Gone.

Our neighbor's driveway and house: right there in our faces.

From inside the house looking out, it seems even more glaringly bare.

Ideas for replacing our overly-vigorous running bamboo came pouring in from readers after I requested suggestions. And there were such great options. We wanted the look and performance of bamboo, but in a manageable form. Megan of Nest Maker suggested the Bamboo Garden, a local specialty nursery in North Plains. After checking them out on line and looking at the cold-hardy clumping bamboos, we knew we needed to make a trip out there.

Regretfully, I didn't have the sense to take pictures, but we had a fabulous time looking around at all the options. If you need a bamboo for any situation in your garden, they have it. And it's great to be able to see mature specimens in their display gardens.

We ended up selecting five 2-gallon pots of Fargesia robusta "Campbell form", a cold-hardy clumping bamboo. They're small pots, with just three to four culms in each, but they're far too expensive not to do the deferred gratification thing for awhile.

The Campbell form is more upright than the other Fargesia robusta cultivars, so it seemed the best one for our narrow planting area.
Here's our inspiration for the future - a photo of Fargesia robusta "Campbell" I borrowed from the Bamboo Garden website. This clump looks to be about four to six years old. It's beautiful, with that striped effect created by the husks on the new culms.

In our excitement at finding a clumping bamboo that worked, we sort of overlooked the fact that the Fargesia would like a bit more shade than it will get right now. Although this bamboo was field grown and should be more tolerant of sun, these pots had been in a greenhouse. Since we want our new bamboo to have the best possible start, we'll delay planting it until September, when the sun isn't so intense.

Our bamboo is currently residing on our covered back patio (with a skylight cover above it) where it can pretend it's still in the greenhouse.

Meanwhile, what about our glaring lack of privacy? I had some reed fencing left over from covering a gate, so I tried it out on one panel of the fence. Success! By fitting the reed tightly into the black-painted fence panels, we got a slightly Asian look, and it will probably hold up longer than if it was just hung on the fence.

So far, we've only covered the fence where the bamboo was removed, but we're so happy with the improvement that we've decided to cover the complete east side of the back garden. The reed fencing creates the illusion of privacy while being open enough to allow some light and good airflow. The reeds will probably last about as long as it takes for our existing screening plants (and the new bamboo) to really take over the job. Why didn't we do this three years ago??!!

For the rest of summer, though, we can grow some vegetables in the vacated land. I got an acorn squash, a zucchini, and some basil starts to take full advantage of this sunny spot for the next couple of months.

With any luck, I'll even get to plant them this weekend since it's going to cool down a little.


  1. "Campbell" sounds like a good choice. We got our bamboo from BN as well-bad choice, Phyllistachys arurea and another even more aggressive one. can not remember name. We even hired a BN staff member last year to help did it out... If only we had bought 15 pots of " Campbell" and learn...

  2. Im so glad you found some good ones, they have a great selection out there. For your ongoing search for evergreen screening, if you have a shady spot I was thinking you also might like Japanese sawtooth acuba - they look pretty in pictures I've seen and I thought of your yard

  3. Isn't that bamboo place fabulous? Such knowledge and passion is inspiring.

  4. Hi Jane, Great find. Kudos to Megan. You Portlanders are the smartest bunch of gardeners. Maybe if we have a few more wet-weathered springs like this one just past, your Fargesia will grow quickly and happily--but not too happily!

    The reed screening covering your fence is nothing short of genius. It looks great. Recently I used a roll to conceal my neighbor's blue tarp just on the other side of the chain link fence between us. I got really annoyed whenever I could see little strips of neon blue in my the background of my photos. No can do. Anywho, good luck with your interim veggies.

  5. Jane...that reed fencing looks absolutely fabulous! And once you plant the bamboo it will be accented in front of the reeds in a way that just the fence never could have done. Nice job!

  6. Love that reed fencing, great idea! That stripy bamboo is magnificent - great choice! Your story confirms my fear of running bamboo - I think it is truly impossible to contain. Hope your new babies have a cozy summer on the porch and get to growing well in the fall. Some other biggish shrubs I've recently falling in love with are California wax myrtle and Arbutus unedo. Also, here is a short list from the Miller Library knowledge base, in answer to a clumping bamboo question:

    Borinda macclureana - hardy to USDA Zone 7 part sun, 12 - 20 feet tall
    Fargesia robusta - hardy to USDA Zone 6, dense erect to 16 feet
    Thamnocalamus tessellatus - hardy to USDA Zone 7 upright to 16 feet

  7. It's hard to believe that bed is as young as it is. Everything has filled in so perfectly!

  8. Ha! Case in point! Here I go, looking for a fab photo of Campbell Form, and where does Google take me? Straight to your blog, Jane! It is a great tip - thanks for that! Your reed panels are also an inspiraton, and although I used them to cover the fence at the back of our house, I think I might use them in our side yard too. Do you think I could use regular spray paint to cover the galvanized posts? It sure looks much better with the black against the reeds. :)


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