Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bamboo 2013 Update, Second Season Growth

I've had several inquiries about how our bamboo is doing. This year, the weather was colder for much longer in the Denver metro area, so the bamboo grew a little later. This is the second season of new growth. My sources claim it takes three grow seasons for bamboo to reach maturity.

But, without further ado, here's the bamboo this year:

Two growth seasons since planted.

Here's what it looked like last year, same month:

First growth season since planted.

In case I successfully distracted your eye with all my fancy flower pots in 2012, compare the birdhouse.  The bamboo is a definitely denser and taller. The birdhouse hasn't been moved, but it's in both photos, in the circle:

From the other side of the fence, the bamboo looks more or less like below. Noah is the in the photo for scale reference. He's 4 feet tall, the bamboo is planted in a planter that is 2 feet deep/tall/above the ground and inside the fence (from this perspective). At some point, I might trim all the bamboo to the same height; for now, I'm letting it grow. There's quite the variation here, from about 6' - 12'.

Bamboo is green throughout the winter. In the spring, it turns brown, looses its leaves and grows new leaves on the old shoots (culms). It also grows ALL of its new culms in the spring. The entire transformation lasts about two months. It's really nice to have green stuff in our otherwise brown xeriscape lawn in the winter. HOWEVER, it is a little depressing when all the bamboo suddenly turns brown in May. Every other plant is growing little buds and flowering; meanwhile, the bamboo looks dead, like this:

Fortunately, it's a short transformation to the end of June, when it grows and becomes a wall of green!

Here are the types of bamboo we planted and how they are doing:

Spectabilis - yellow culm (stalk) with green stripe

Phyllostachys Aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' from online dealer Lewis Bamboo: this is hands down my favorite. It looks great, with it's yellow culms and occasionally yellow striped leaves. The leaves are smaller. It's spreading nicely. Some spectabilis is about 3 feet away from the original planting site, making it the best spreading of all the bamboo we planted. This 2nd year, the height is between 6' -12' with half inch diameter culms. It's holding up well to the wind.

Rubro - brown edges on the leaves.

Phyllostachys Rubromarginata 'Rubro' also from online dealer Lewis Bamboo: this is my least favorite bamboo. The leaves are slightly larger. They seem to be more prone to wind damage. They turn brownish around the edges rather quickly after they appear. The rubro seems to be spreading OK (about 18" from original planting site), but the height is generally lower than the spectabilis, about 3'-6' in this the second year of growth. Culm diameter is around 3/8."  It's possible this species is just reaching maturity more slowly. (?) I don't know, this bamboo sounds really great on the Lewis Bamboo website, but I'm just not happy with it so far.

Phyllostachys Aureosulcata 'Yellow Groove' from the local nursery/ Monrovia.
Phyllostachys Bissetii 'Bissett'  from local nursery/ Monrovia.

Yellow Groove - green stalk (culm) with a yellow stripe.

Both the Bissett and Yellow Groove are doing well. Last year, I mentioned the nursery bamboo wasn't spreading as much as the bamboo from the online dealer. (Perhaps because it was significantly more root bound?) This year, spreading seems like less of a problem for the nursery bamboos, although they still only seem to have ventured about 12" from the original planting site. They are about the same height range as the Spectabilis: 6'-12' with a culm diameter size of about half an inch. (I should mention that the photo on the Yellow Groove tag two photos above looks more like Spectabilis to me.) Here in our planter, the new growth on the Bissett and Yellow Groove look very, very similar. I have to search carefully for the "yellow groove" to see the difference.

Other stuff –

Maintenance: this spring, my mother-in-law and I went through the old bamboo while the new culms were emerging and pruned off the dead tops. I didn't need to do this in 2012, but this year the top 6" of about 25% of the bamboo had died. Perhaps this was a result of the freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw weather we had this spring? I'm not sure. The bamboo wasn't the only plant in my yard that needed more pruning of dead parts than last year. Last year, I sprinkled fertilizer on the bamboo in the spring as the new culms emerged, per Lewis Bamboo's suggestion. This year, I forgot.

The bamboo is on a drip irrigation system. During the winter, when the drip irrigation is off, I tried to water it whenever the temperature got to about 80 degrees (which is something that happens in Colorado in the winter, occasionally).

Advantages/Disadvantages: I still like the bamboo, but maybe I'm not as smitten with it as I was last year. It does grow fast (for two months), but if you average the growth over the three years it (supposedly) takes to reach "maturity" you could probably find other plants or even grasses that grow just as big, just as fast. The real advantage of the bamboo, as far as I am concerned, is the green foliage in the winter. Our yard is otherwise very xeriscape. (Xeriscape means: BROWN in the winter. I jest: Xeriscape means low water requirements, but xeriscape plants DO tend to be very BROWN in the winter.) I love having some greenery in the brown of winter.

This section is mostly Rubro; the leaves are browner than in other section. This was April 15th.

The bamboo has NOT (yet?) escaped the planter. I've braced myself for this to happen, even though we've been as cautious as possible. In the meantime, I'd like to point out that it may be that this dry, elevated climate is inhospitable enough that the bamboo will not be invasive. When researching this two years ago, it was really hard for me to find anyone who has real, Denver-specific experience with bamboo.

Other posts related to this bamboo project:
1. The deck
2. The planter
3. The first season of bamboo growth
4. The third season of bamboo growth

5. The fourth season of bamboo growth (no post exists)
6. The fifth season of bamboo growth


Introduction to Media & Culture said...

This looks amazing! I'd be up for bamboo, but I've only ever experienced it as an invasive plant (in Austin). Are your planters on your deck, with no contact with the ground?

Glad you're back (pictures or no).

Ann Wyse said...

The planter do touch the ground. (GULP.) They are 24 inches deep. From what I've read on the internet, bamboo roots (rhizomes) are only 12-15" deep. Of course, I think one always has to take these thing with a grain of salt, so we shall see!

The planter is also lined with plastic, although I have less confidence in plastic as deterrent.

Nancy Curott said...

I've heard that the Denver Botanic Garden has Bamboo and may be a good source of info. We live in Colorado Springs and I am planning on doing bamboo as a privacy screen as well. Thanks for your post as it has given us hope of what we want to accomplish!

Ann Wyse said...

Oh, you're right, Nancy! That's true! The Denver Botanic Garden DOES have bamboo! I've seen it! I've haven't tried to ask them about it, however, and never written down the exact names of what they have. That's kind of dumb of me - sometimes I act like if I can't find out about it on the internet, it doesn't exist.