Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Neighbor's Bamboo


Maybe, from the title, you thought this post was going to be a complaint. But no, I'm totally in love with my neighbor's bamboo, and am doing my best to coax it into my yard. 

I've heard so many complaints that this plant is invasive.  In truth, a plants is invasive in your yard only if it's running rampant to the point where it's a nuisance and growing where you don't want it to. I'm of the mind that many "invasives" can be grown responsibly and rewardingly in the backyard garden -- if it's a plant that you enjoy, who can find anything wrong with that?   Of course, a lot can depend on conditions, how it spreads and what you do to control it. 


This is a hardy evergreen that my neighbor planted in the corner of his yard that borders my property.  It's thriving.  It's also an outstanding "green screen", providing privacy and filtering out the sound from the noisy highway nearby. It grows about 3-5' feet per year and many have reached 15 feet or more.

Since this bamboo, which I'm guessing is phyllostahys bambusoides, spreads by sending out underground rhizomes, it's possible to control it by cutting back the rhizomes periodically or installing a special barrier. It's even possbile to plant it in a container that has the bottom cut out.  The American Bamboo Society website has lots of info about how to control and care for it.  It does benefit from mulch, watering and fertilzer, but I'm fairly sure no special care has been taken of this patch. Ideally it should have at least 5 hours of direct sunlight, and be planted in slightly acidic, loamy soil.   My neighbor's is mulched by the leaves from neighboring trees, and watered by the rain.  Every spring, he thins it by cutting 10-20 poles out.  I make sure I'm around on those days and always ask for a few poles.



They've been great garden helpers, serving as pole bean and morning glory teepees, here at home and in the school garden.

They've been used as tomato stakes and deer guards.




And even to build a fort. 

After a few years, they get brittle and they're used as kindling for our fireplace, or get composted. 

What should I do with this year's bamboo?

16 comments:

Talon said...

You're right about the invasive qualities of plants - sometimes it's truly perspective - one person's trash is another person's treasure sort of thing.

I love how many uses you have for the bamboo....and I bet you come up with quite a few more and I can't wait to see what they are!

Lorilee said...

It looks pretty and is useful! I went on a garden tour years ago and one of the gardens had a very large type of bamboo. It was very tall and so large I could barely get my two hands around it. It sounded awesome when the wind blew and it clacked together.
Blessings,
Lorilee

Joanne said...

Hm, can you arrange them into some sort of bamboo trellis, or entranceway to a part of your yard/garden?

tina said...

Bamboo is one of those plants I never ever mess with. I spent so many hours as a teen trying to eradicate it from our forntyard that I have a phobia toward it. Truly! It's not that it's invasive and takes over it's that once it's planted it is there forever. That being said I love bamboo poles in the garden. I say use them to grow beans or make a trellis.

Patti Lacy said...

ENJOY IT! Oh, I loved the "privacy fence" it gave us in Tempe, Arizona, but my husband battled it as he swathed a path to the alley.

Hmmm. You could clip shoots and gift your friends with wonderful living memories and a valued plant!

Patti
www.pattilacy.com/blog

k said...

I've been waiting to own my own home before I started on bamboo. It's so beautiful, and there are varieties hardy enough for up here. As I recall, it was pretty straightforward to control it. It's attracted towards water, so maybe if you water that corner of your yard a lot,it will come towards you.

Ronda Laveen said...

I had no idea one could do that many things with bamboo. Thanks for the 411.

I just love the word " rhizomes."

PamHMG said...

Thanks for the link to the American Bamboo Society. We have bamboo that is starting to spread forward and crowd out and eventually kill the low-lying junipers so this spring, we have the monumental task (or at least paying someone to do that monumental task) of digging the ground and putting down a rhizome barrier. We should have done it in the beginning!

Squirrel of Nyack said...

want some bamboo? I have plenty --you can dig some up in spring. It's very pretty & lucky. I got mine at Matterhorn--they promised it wouldn't go into the neighbor's yard, but it did.

Squirrel of Nyack said...

I also have a lot of chocolate peppermint --it looks like regular peppermint but there's a slight peppermint patty taste at first bite. a hint of cocoa. anyway, everyone said I'd regret planting that one tiny plant--I have tons of it now, but it's easy to pull up, it's edible, and i love the scent.

JGH said...

It sounds like I'm one of the rare people who wants more bamboo ;-)!!
People are telling me that it's hard to dig up, so I will definitely be cautious here.

But one thing I didn't learn Squirrel, is how to transplant it. I'm sure I can find out on the website though. And yes, I loooooove any kind of mint!! I'll probably put it in a container.

Pam, there are definitely directions for the barriers on that site.

edward said...

i have a lucky bamboo plant from the deli. i like to sit next to it and thank it for all the good luck.

AshKuku said...

I have bamboos at my native.... The bamboo shoots are used in our cuisines too... & tastes good.... Just like the banana plant shoots... And here they make homemade ladders that help the local laborers in painting the house... or even used for domestic purposes too... that helps us remove something from the attic.... They are lovely plants... Probably those ancient days teachers kept canes made out of them in their classes... SCARY!!


Ash...
(http://asha-oceanichope.blogspot.com/)

tut-tut said...

Just don't plant kudzu. Whatever you do.

I was up at my patch the other day, and saw some feathery leaves growing in a row. I pulled on one and got a carrot!

Stacey said...

Bamboo does grow rampant in the DC area, maybe because it's so warm. However, there are periodic calls put out by the National Zoo for bamboo - for the pandas! One can also buy a clumping bamboo that is much more mangeable.

JGH said...

Edward, thank you for visiting. Your deli bamboo is okay in my book, though some would say it's not real bamboo....

Ash, I don't know if this bamboo is edible or not, but I love bamboo shoots added to my food sometimes.

Tut, is kudzu the same as "mile a minute" vine? I'm steering clear of that stuff, for sure. I left a few carrots and beets overwintering in the bed to see what happens!

Stacey, what a nice idea to donate excess bamboo to the pandas of DC!