Bamboo ?

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

I am considering bamboo as a screen between us and our neighbor. From our side yard, we look directly down into their front yard. I'd rather not. We are up-hill from them on their south side. I don't want to shade them out too much, so tall evergreens are not at the top of my list. I previously planted a single clumping bamboo as a bit of an experiment which has done well and has been well behaved (just gets fuller every year). I like the look of it in the wind and it provides some screening without being real heavy looking. The site is in full sun on a slope. There are a couple of firs, a walnut, and an alder already there. I can either divide the existing clump bamboo and/or get more, or I'm toying with a running bamboo. I could give it quite a bit of room to form a presence and thought I could control the perimeter by brush hogging it regularly. Will mowing keep it in check? Who has running bamboo and is it really as awful as some folks say?

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

I have read that mowing and/or root pruning can keep a running bamboo in check. We have a stand of it in a corner between the road and the driveway (was there when I bought the place), and in the last ten years it has not spread significantly. The road crew keeps it mowed on the road side, and we either mow or weed-eat routinely on the other side. It did start to creep into the gravel driveway at one point, and that could become a problem, unless I make an effort to look for wayward shoots there and prune them off. it is really nice having a supply of bamboo stakes for any garden purpose conceivable. I let the neighbors cut some too, so everyone benefits and helps keep the stand thinned.

Gig Harbor, WA

Yes, it can get very invasive. My father had a stand to hide his compost pit, and we were continually mowing Bamboo shoots in the lawn, yards away from the stand. I don't remember his having a problem in the garden direction; maybe he had it blocked, or maybe it was just the shady side. The stand I have is blocked by a plastic root barrier that's at least 12" deep (I can only find 6" root barrier in the stores hereabouts, I'll have to call landscapers to see if they can get me 12" barrier, because I need more). I piled dirt up around one end of the stand last year, about 4" deep, just to store the dirt temporarily, and where the dirt was above grade, when I dug it away today to plant Blueberry, there were thumb-size Bamboo roots all through it. I hope that's not the case below grade - I haven't dug in yet to see. I'm hoping there's a barrier there too (as I assumed there was), and only the above-grade dirt allowed the roots to extend.

Gig Harbor, WA

By the way, I applaud your concern not to shade your neighbor! At my last house, I got no Sun till 3pm because the neighbor to the south had added a story.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

I had a neighbor who planted it adjacent to me, and it destroyed my hand-built (by me) stone patio. It lifted all of the stones up into the air. I am still angry about it, and it has been 10 years, and I'm on my third house (that was my first). My opinion is that if it invades even an inch of your neighbor's property, that it is trespassing, rude, and not nice. They might not be gardeners now, but future owners of the property might be. I'm being very frank about this---because I still am so upset that they did that to my property. It really is horrendous. And I am personally not a fan of the look of bamboo in the Pacific NW---it just looks odd and out of place unless you have a through and through Asian inspired garden. (Sorry!)

Poulsbo, WA

The people who built our house planted black bamboo along our property lines for the same reasons. It serves the purpose and I like the look of it, but I would not make the same choice. They used a very high quality barrier plastic that goes down about 48" in order to prevent the bamboo from spreading where it wasn't wanted. It helps, but it doesn't solve the problem. The bamboo likes to climb over the top of the barrier and sneak through the seams, and it breaks through even the best barrier in time. Shoots can pop up 6-9' away without warning, and the shoots can be large enough that they require a saw or heavy pruners to cut, they are not always mowable. New shoots also grow unbelievably quickly, ignoring them them for even a week or two gives them time to make a real mess of patio stones, etc. From an aesthetic standpoint, the shiny black plastic is not really a thing of beauty and, because it must rise well above ground level to be effective, it frequently gets clipped by the lawn mower, making it even less attractive, not to mention less effective. Another problem is that the bamboo bends over, almost to the ground, when hit with rain or snow. It pops back up when it dries, but it doesn't care which side of the property line it's laying on in the mean time (not very neighborly). They are also very, very, very messy plants. The leaves, which fall pretty much year round, blow all over the vicinity (again, not very neighborly, in my opinion). We have a problem with mites in our bamboo. If your part of Washington is also dry during the summer, you will need to mist the plants regularly and spray 3-4 times per year with oil in order to keep them healthy. If you do decide to go with the bamboo, I strongly recommend talking first with a bamboo expert (try the PNW Chapter of the American Bamboo Society: about the space, barriers and maintenance requirements of the variety you are considering. I'd also suggest that you discuss it with your neighbors before you go ahead since they will be affected by your choice.

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

Another 'bell' ringing in my head is the fact that I am in my late 50s and who's to know who will be caretakers after us...

At this point, we do not have neighbors below us to confer with. The previous owner recently moved out and has informed us he intends to rent it out. It's a very small old house in an undesireable setting (kind of in a hole at the bottom of hills from all sides so extremely wet and not much sun). It has historically leaned clearly on the side of junky, and I anticipate having renters in may make it worse (could be wrong). Typically has one or more nonfunctioning vehicles/boats, random large pieces of metal of one sort or another, fences in disrepair, and a junkyard that is fortunately being overtaken by blackberries. Previous owner ran 3-5 llamas on way not enough pasture, and also had free-range rabbits who have completely undermined the foundation by burrowing under it. Over the years, we've always had nice enough folks living there - just a definite Sanford & Son look about it. I don't begrudge their lifestyle, just don't want to look at it too closely. Now, while the place is vacant, seems a good time to do some planting without appearing too rude.

Perhaps I'll just divide up my clumping bamboo (I really do like the look of it) and transplant some of my native shrubs to create some lighter-looking screening. I have lots of Indian plum, elderberry, salmonberry, and some wild roses. Could also plant whips of pussy willow, which I find grows very quickly but not too tall.

Union, WA(Zone 8b)

Look up Red Osier Dogwood. It is a very nice native plant with color, bloom, fruit, no maintenence unless you want to prune it. Small leaves so it not messy. Just enough to mulch itself.

Union, WA(Zone 8b)

Cinquefoil, Daphne, berberis, ruby or yellow, Dahlia, Peony(tree or tuber, Iris, Snowdrops, grape hyacinth, Rock Rose. All highly deer resistant. Think I put this on the wrong thread.

This message was edited Mar 6, 2012 9:32 AM

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

I love the native red twig dogwood. It could have a kind of bamboo-like feel, since it has an upright clump-of-canes kind of structure. It is beautiful in the winter also.
I guess we have just been lucky with our bamboo. i don't know what kind it is for sure since the previous owner planted it by the road before there was a house here. It never gets watered and is far from any of my garden areas, so maybe that's why it hasn't spread hardly at all.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I planted a 1/2 gallon pot of Fargesia rufa from Home Depot in July 2009, and now its around 5 1/2 feet tall. It's a very cold-hardy clumper.

Unfortunately for me, it's also droopy and the culms are more like thick grass than the stiff poles I'm still hoping for when it gets a little older.

I heard (just once) that bamboo might wnat a soluble silicate soil amendment. Does anyone here agree with that? I have clay with miscelaneous amendments.

fernfarmer said:
>> If your part of Washington is also dry during the summer, you will need to mist the plants regularly
and spray 3-4 times per year with oil in order to keep them healthy.

Well, I am dry during the summer, but the only misting I do is that I get the leaves wet since I water from above, maybe twice per week, maybe twice per month. What symptoms would you look for to indicate needing more frequent misting? I don;t see anything like wilt or browness.

Similarly, what is the reason for oil sprays? I hadn't heard of that for bamboo.

Thanks for any tips. I would like to stimulate more-rapid growth, especially thicker culms.

This message was edited Mar 16, 2012 5:25 PM

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Union, WA(Zone 8b)

I really like that plant.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

He or she is a friendly and healthy pet, but I was hoping to harvest some stakes and poles ... well, I should be patient and just appreciate her virtues.

(Linda)Gig Harbor, WA(Zone 8a)

I planted 1/3 acre of bamboo (100 plants) 20 years ago as a barrier to a very busy road and it is very effective screen. I have 24 varieties and have a fairly good idea of what works. If I had it to do all over again, I would be more selective of the varieties chosen. But, I would never have a garden with out it. I have several species of birds that love to nest in bamboo including hummingbirds and blue jays. As with any plant you need to understand what you are planting and know there will be some maintenance. Barrier planting will help..ours is planted on the other side of a stream from the house and mowing is a very effective control.

Gig Harbor, WA

Alas, the landscaper who put in the Bamboo here didn't put the barrier around the Bamboo, but around a wider area, and I've already planted Blueberry, Honeyberry (which are wonderful!), and Elderberry within the barrier, not realizing that the barriered area was so large. I went to plant a Licorice Mint as an understory last week, asked the Mint where it would like to live, and when I dug the spot for it, there EXACTLY where it wanted to be was another inch-thick Bamboo root just about to hit the barrier and turn vertical. Fortunately they're easily chopped off, but now I'm going to have to dig a trench between the Bamboo and the Berries, and keep after the interlopers. Or get hold of another dozen Licorice Mint plants, as they're obviously my good buddies! The secondary Bamboo roots are amazing, all branched and robust-looking, they'd be good stars in a horror movie - I can see why Bamboo depletes the soil after a while. Meanwhile, even after two years, the Bamboo still looks pretty ratty, and hasn't grown tall enough to be the screen it was intended to be. I have no idea what variety it is, but I'm thinking of getting a Panda.

Union, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi astrogard, I don't recall your name so I'm assuming you are new to this forum. Welcome and I hope you enjoy this spot.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

I'm hoping to plant two containers of bamboo at the end of my deck along with a nice Rosemary. Can bamboo deal with south and west sun fairly well? I'm hopping to use it as a "shade" of sort for some of my plants.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Tiki, I don't know. My bamboo mostly gets indirect light ... some late afternoon direct sun.

(Linda)Gig Harbor, WA(Zone 8a)

I have been waiting for pandas for about 2 decades...but none have showed. None of my bamboo gets anything but seasonal sun exposure...but because we are so far north....I have found may plants that need shade in southern climates grow very well in full sun here...might be worth a try.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

Thanks Linda.

Mountlake Terrace, WA(Zone 8a)

I have Fargesia rufa adjacent to my house for 6 or 7 years, and it has really outgrown its space. I put it in as a 1 gallon pot, and I now have a spread of 3' diameter at the base. I am threatening to remove it, as it is both overgrown, but it has a serious case of bamboo mites, that I cannot seem to eradicate.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> spread of 3' diameter at the base.

How tall has it gotten, or, rather, how long are the branches? Mine droops until it looks like a weeping willow.

Maybe thin it out by clipping 1/3 or 1/4 of the culms near ground level?
Maybe just cut some 3-4" wide strips through the center of the patch to thin it out?

By Year Six, you should have some shoots that are dieing and others that are mature and as strong as they'll ever get.

If you cut out the deadwood (or a random 1/4), what's left will have more sun and air and nutrients. Maybe simple vigor will beat back on the mites.

Someone advised me that bamboos should be sprayed with "oil" at least once per year, but he never expalined why or what kidn of oil. Maybe like some people spray on evergreens (or used to).

Mountlake Terrace, WA(Zone 8a)

Mine is 6-7 feet tall, with really small culms, less than 1/2 inch at base. Mine weeps a little, really heavy in snow. It was recommended to me to cut it to the ground and then try to rake up the leaves from between the stems. I did about 3 years ago, and it never did a darn thing to the mites.

Now it has gotten big enough where it bugs me, and I am threatening to cut it down and put something reasonable in the space.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> cut it to the ground

Radical! Sorry to hear the mites are still there. Maygbe I need new glasses, but I haven't seen any bugs on my young F. rufa. And we are only 5-6 miles apart and a similar distance from the coast.

I have part sun - part shade and very dense clay soil. It is in a very shallow 2-square-foot raised bed and the roots are maybe 2-3" above the pure clay. In the summer, I water often. I give it just a little chemical fertilizer 3-4 times per year.

Mountlake Terrace, WA(Zone 8a)

I think the mites came with mine. And I never see mites, but just the dead parts of the leaves. It took someone at Sky Nursery to ID the problem as it is quite subtle. Mine is planted on the north side of the deck stairs, not a north exposure exactly, but still less than full sun. Its in the native soil, which is not rock hard until 2-3 feet down, but quite gravelly with a good bit of silt and clay. It never gets much of anything from me, mulching, fertilizer, pruning.

(Ang) Bremerton, WA(Zone 8b)

Wrong forum lol

This message was edited Apr 6, 2012 10:04 AM

Thumbnail by tikipod Thumbnail by tikipod
Poulsbo, WA

A couple people asked about misting and oil spraying. The purpose of both is to discourage mites. Symptoms that you have mites include pale patches on the leaves. If you do a Google search for "bamboo mite damage images," you'll see lots of examples. If you already have mites, remove as many of the fallen leaves as you can and start spraying. If you have a thin, short bamboo like fortunei, you can cut it to the ground in early spring and hope to starve the mites before new growth comes in (and keep spraying!).

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

Thanks for all the input. The bank has now taken over the property and they are in the process of weedwacking virtually everything to the ground with little regard to what is there (much of it is heading toward or in dormancy). There was a nice patch of blackberries that served as a good screen - we kept our side controlled with mowing and their side borders their gravel driveway, but that's to the ground now (dang, it had really juicy berries just waiting to be picked).

Once the weather cools, I think I'll go ahead and split up my clumping bamboo and also add in some redtwig, Indian plum, and a couple pussywillows. I also have an overabundance of Joe Pye which could be transplanted next spring. I think that will be a nice mixture, not be too tall, and give me a pretty wide screen. Also shouldn't need any maintenance - they can all just battle the field grass on their own.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

It looks like I'm 45 minutes away from you. Would you be willing to trade away some of your clumping bamboo ... especially if you have Fargesia robusta? Maybe called "Green Screen"?

I have F. rufa and would trade some of that for a different cold-hardy clumper. I'm trying to get something that will produce thicker, stiffer culms than my 3-year old F. rufa. My young bamboo looks more like stiff grass than "poles". Best would be something that tolerates partial shade or shade.

Or do you have bamboo poles you would trade away?

If "maybe yes", what kinds of thing might you like in trade? I have :

- some industrial steel wire shelves that would support soil-seiving screens or trays of seedlings,
- some 3-4" PVC fittings with hardware cloth in many mesh sizes for cleaning seeds,
- a variety of commercial seeds to trade, especially Asian Brassicas, radish, cover crops etc.
- many varieties flower and crop seeds, e.g. Salvia & Penstemon, Viola, Lobellia
- a 50-pound bag of Urea (46-0-0) I would happily split,
- two 7-foot T stakes and
- a variety of drip or spay irrigation fittings.

I also sharpen knives and axes, and have BOXES full of stanless knives of all sizes.

Does any of this appeal?

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

Rick (or do I remember you go by Corey?) - unless you're in south Everett, I'm about half hour out. I'm happy to share some bamboo if you help me dig it. I'd trade for another clumper. I unfortunately do not know what cultivar I have - I'm usually pretty good about keeping a record, but this one slipped through the crack. I can't even remember when I planted it - I think it was kind of a random thing to see if it would grow with zero attention (it did).

My clump is fairly young itself and the stalks are not very robust. Might be the same one you have. I'll go snap a picture after the weekend (heading out camping) and post that, perhaps someone might be able to identify whatever it is I have.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I go by either name but prefer "Corey". There are just too many "Ricks".

Google said your town was 45 minutes away, so let's only do it if what you have is *not* F. rufa. You're certanly welcome to some of mine if it's different from what you have. After three years (I think "3") I could dig out a chunk of roots. Probably cut it shorter at the same time so it doersn't have too many leaves and stick out the car window at 55 MPH!

I'm not sure how far down the leaves go or how big the actual clump of roots is ... I'll have to burrow under it and check. Now that the culms are 6 or more feet long, the plant is shaped like a big umbrella or mushroom.

The left photo was June 8 2012 just as new growth was shooting up, not yet drooping over.
The right photo was from August of last year, not yet tall enough to droop all the way over.

One reason I planted it was to get stakes and poles, not tall, stiff grass!

There is a "Grass and Bamboo" forum, but they didn't seem able to tell similar varieties apart from a photo.

There's also a Plant ID forum but I don't know - those Bamboo, they all look alike to me!

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Union, WA(Zone 8b)

I like your idea for raised beds. Are those cement or tiles?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you!

They're paving stones made from concrete. That photo has 8" x 16" x 3/4". Laid the long way, they give 16" of length for around $1.15 or 89 cents on sale. But 8" isn't very deep, and often soil subsides after you fork it up and sow seeds. I tend to put the 8" walls around a bed that goes down below grade at least 4". Then I make sure to cut a slit trench through the clay, downslope from the deepest point in the bed that I dug up and amended.

My whole yard drains so poorly that I have to run that trench until the grade of the clay soil surface runs down to meet the floor of my trench. Then I know that the deepest part of my raised bed can drain downhill and won't flood and drown roots.

Otherwise, I've built a mud wallow.

Here's my most ambitious trench, long and wide. I used a perforasted corrugated platic pipe, becuase I never guessed how heavy and expensive gravel could be!

I also included a photo showing my "Square Yard Bed" when bulbs are coming up (it's around 40" x 40"). It needs a lot of trimming before it will look pretty. Eventually I'll replace the odd-ball scraps and bricks with cut-to-size pieces of paving stone.
The soil sank a lot after the compost decomposed, but I'll keep adding more compost and more soil until it's 16" deep.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Here's a bed I threw up in haste to take advantage of a neighbor's offer to grow some flowers on her side of the sidewalk.

All the pavers are dis-arranaged from some kind of soil work or frost heaves and not tidied back up yet. You can see a tarnsition from 12"x12"x1" pavers to 8"x16"x3/4".

And some other beds, including my "Heather Path" bed that's about as wide as one lawnmower width, mowed out from a mass of heather. It's like a long planter box - more like a contaqiner than a bed. Snapdragons, Giant Swiss Pansies from Safeway, Lobelia and Ornage California Poppies.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Union, WA(Zone 8b)

Love your flowers and your cat.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks! Mr. Toby is very dignified when he's outside and the other cats can see him. He's too cool to talk to me where he can be seen. When I sit on the back porch, he prowls around to be sure no other cats are watching, then jumps up to be held. Then his head swivels back and forth to be sure he doesn't get caught.

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Union, WA(Zone 8b)

Cats are so neat. Such personality. Really like that dark CA poppy.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Really like that dark CA poppy.

Me too! The Mikado poppy was lovely, but I onl;y got one to sprout and it had not re-seeded by the time my new neighbor made me move the bed. Boatanical Interests seed,
Eschscholzia californica
Item #1031

Toby is an affectionate charmer. My Signifgantg Other only visits WA occasionally, and Toby dotes on her. BUT when she packs a suitcazse to leave, he recogn izes the symptoms and GLARES at her, then turns away to give her the Cold Shoulder. He spoils the effect by checking to see if she's properly chastened.

Then, if she comes back within a week or so, he's still mad at her for leaving, and he tries to snub her ... but can't stay away for more than 10-20 minutes.

A charmer!

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