Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bamboo 2014 Update, Third Season

I have not-good news to report on the bamboo this year. If you've been following along – anxiously awaiting my yearly update (haha!) – then you already know that the third season is supposed to be the season that bamboo reaches maturity. Maturity is defined as: as tall as it will ever get and the culms (stalks) are as big in diameter as they will ever get.

What makes this year disappointing is that the new bamboo is shorter than last year's and the culms are narrower than last year's. GULP. The bamboo has pretty much gone backwards in its development.

2014: bamboo is shorter with thinner culms, but there's more of it. Overall, it's denser than ever.

How is this possible? you ask. Oh, I ask myself that also! So, let's see, things that were different during the last year:

1) I failed to apply fertilizer during the second season. (Maybe it's catching up with me now? It didn't grow underground as much??)
2) The winter was the coldest we have had since planting the bamboo. Temperatures reached down to the -20 degrees Fahrenheit range at night and stayed at or near 0 during the day.
3) It was a relatively slow to get warm this spring.
4) We had a bad hail storm that took out ALL of the new growth towards the end of May.

There is not much I can do about unusually cold temperatures and hail storms. The lack of fertilizer can be blamed on The Year of the Newborn (2013). But there is one mistake I might have made, that I will be more cautious about in the future:

In the middle of May, when the existing bamboo began growing its new leaves, I started to thin/prune the bamboo. I cut out pieces that were clearly dead and had not made it through the winter. Seems to be there is some thinning every year. This year there was a lot of dead. The tallest bamboo seemed to most affected. I cut out, maybe, fifty percent? I had pretty much just finished thinning when the hail storm hit. It was a bad hail storm. To give you a measure, the hail storm was bad enough that the insurance is paying for a new roof and gutters on our house. As for the bamboo, it was stripped of all its new leaves. The fragile new culms were broken off at the ground. I wondered if it had been a mistake to thin the bamboo so early. The thicker, dead bamboo might have protected the new bamboo from the hail. I hoped I hadn't contributed to the death of the bamboo with my ambitious thinning. It seemed unlikely, but I was worried nonetheless.

And I wasn't sure what to expect for this season, especially since bamboo has such a crazy growth cycle. (You can read about that in my post from the first season, here.)

General information about plants after a hail storm suggested fertilizer, so I fertilized the bamboo while I was doing everything else in the yard.

About two weeks later, the bamboo re-sprouted leaves and more new culms emerged. It looks okay. I'm saying stuff to myself like, Setbacks are natural! Landscape growth is not a completely linear process! Such bad hail storms only happen to the same house every 10 years or so in the metro area.* But I'm hoping next year will be better. I'm hoping that the bamboo isn't regressing in development because of something permanent, like, say, the planter is simply too small. Or the roots get too cold in the planter.

I've been feeling pretty glum, even with all my pep talks. I whispered to Fritz that we may have to admit defeat and plant something else if it doesn't improve next year. But we're not admitting defeat yet.

You really just want to see the photos, right? Every year, I struggle to remember how exactly I photographed it in the past. And I don't do it quite the same. But you still get the idea. Let's compare three years:

I might email Lewis Bamboo and see if I can get some feedback from them on hailstorms and especially cold weather and how that affects bamboo. When I get a chance. It's pretty hectic around here with all the kids home.

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

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

*I have yet to determine whether or not that is actually a true statement, or just something made up for a problem in a math book being sold on Amazon.


Pregnantly Plump said...

I'm sorry about the bamboo. Maybe the hail set you back a year? And next year it will be more like what you want. It's frustrating when you have a long term plan for plants and they don't follow your wishes.

Jennifer said...

I feel like that happens every year for my peonies. This year they were fantastic and flowers were just about to emerge and then BAM! They were destroyed. Last year the late freeze got them. I've only seen their beautiful flowers once since I've planted them, but I can't give up hope yet! Good luck! I think the bamboo will thrive!

Ann Wyse said...

SIGH. Gardening is such a lesson in patience.

I'm hoping you are right, Jennifer: Next year...

Anonymous said...

Ann and Fritz
Don't give up on the bamboo. Mine here in Fort Collins are about 10 years still getting bigger each year. I cover mine Thanksgiving to Mar. 15 but its tricky since they can cook under plastic as easily as freeze without protection. Email me at bhansen at veeco dot com if you would like to chat or stop by to see taller bamboo in Colorado. Decora Yellowgroove Nuda Vivax 12 to 20 feet

Jay Buster said...


2015 update? I'm in Boulder and my bamboo will be starting it's second season in a few months. Thanks for taking the time to write about your bamboo experiences.