Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bamboo Update, Fifth Growing Season

Last year I did not update on our bamboo privacy screen. It was the second year of really dismal growth and I could not bring myself to write another sad post.

Bamboo plant screen, looking pretty good, after the 5th growing season.
This year, the bamboo is doing really well again. It is almost perfectly the green wall of foliage between our house and the neighbors that I hoped it would be: about 8-10' high and dense enough in most places that you can not see through it.

July 2016

So, here's a fifth season update as well as some speculation as to why seasons 3 and 4 were so bad. Links to a review of each growing season are at the end of this post.

  • 20 linear feet of bamboo planted in 4' wide x 24 inch deep planter.
  • Colorado USDA Zone 5B at an elevation of about 5200'
  • Four cold hardy, running bamboos: Rubro and Spectabilis varieties (purchased online from Lewis Bamboo) and Yellow Groove and Bissetii (from a local nursery).
Early June 2016. The leaves at the bottom are last year's growth.
The stalks or culms rising above are this year's new growth.
The culms will unfold into branches and leaves once the culms
have reached their final height. 

Lessons Learned during Seasons 3 and 4:
  1. Our cold hardy bamboo can survive temperatures of -20 Fahrenheit, but it has massive death of foliage above ground.
  2. If the temperatures stay above 0 degrees, the cold hardy bamboo keeps GREEN leaves all winter. (Below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the leaves turn brown and the culms/stalks begin to die from the top.)
  3. If hail or snow collects on the bamboo during the grow season (mid May-mid June), it can destroy much of the growth for that year.

February 2016. The main reason to have bamboo: it stays green in the winter
(unless the temperature falls below 0 degrees Fahrenheit).
The bamboo is so short because it was really damaged by hail
during the previous growing season. 

Our favorite varieties continue to be the Spectablis and Yellow Groove. The Bissetii is also doing fine. We contemplate removing the Rubio once in a while. In the very first photo above, the center area which is thinner and lower than the other areas, was originally planted with Rubio. The varieties haven't mixed with each other as much as we thought they would: they still tend to hangout predominantly in the 9 square feet in which they were planted. (No widely invasive running bamboo. Yet.)

This year, our bamboo did most of its growth over the month of June. I've covered the particular growing habits of the cold hardy bamboo in previous posts. I suggest the links below if you want to learn more about it.

July 2016. The bamboo leaves and branches have unfolded from the culms.
The bamboo will remain like this until next year,
barring extreme cold or hail.

We've decided that if we would like the bamboo to stay like this, we are going to need to protect it better from Colorado's (sometimes) extreme cold and (sometimes) hail. Some commenters pointed this out to us over the last few years. Now that we see the potential of the bamboo, we are planning to act on their advice!

Before the fall, the goal is to build a light (but strong and visually unobtrusive) wood framework over the bamboo that can be covered if the weather suddenly turns bad. If we get it done, fingers crossed, thumbs pressed, I will share it.

It's so much more inviting out there, I would also love to find some comfy outdoor seating. And a rug. That would be nice, too!

Links to Past Posts:
1st Growing Season (positive)
2nd Growing Season (positive)
3rd Growing Season (negative)
4th Growing Season (negative, no post)
5th Growing Season (hint: you're reading it!)
The Deck
The Bamboo Planter


Matt Bonner said...

We're thinking about doing something very similar with our yard in Denver. Thank you for sharing this amazing wealth of information and for documenting over the years, this is just fantastic!

Greg Kramer said...

What did you line your planter with so it could not run?

Ann Wyse said...

There's no liner in the planter. The planter is 24" high. Bamboo rhizomes, which are the part that spread, only like to go about 12" deep.

Here's what I've observed so far: occasionally, a rhizome will grow out of the soil in the top of our planter. Finding nothing but air in all directions, the rhizomes tend to loop back into the planter soil. The farthest I've seen a rhizome grow through the air is about 4 inches. After that, the rhizome seems to give up and head back where it came from.