Bamboo in the Garden

           Mention of bamboo will bring forth groans of dismay from many gardeners. They may have had personal experience with an invasive bamboo patch on their own property. Or maybe they have heard about the experience from a fellow gardener. An important thing to realize is that not all the bamboos are of the aggressive/invasive type. Some bamboo species do not spread by rhizomes but are clump forming and therefore not invasive. The bamboo genus Fargesia provides a good example of just such a group of bamboo species. If you would like to use bamboo in a landscape situation and are concerned about invasiveness, then use Fargesia species.

         Bamboos are wonderful for screening purposes. The tall bamboos are best used here.  They are also companion plants for broadleaf evergreens and Rhododendrons. They provide contrast in texture when planted among the needle evergreens, pine, hemlock, and spruces. A good tall tree-like bamboo for our metropolitan region is Phyllostachys aureosulcata. This bamboo has the common name of Yellow-grove Bamboo. It is a very reliable Bamboo for coastalConnecticutand has many choice cultivars from which to choose, each growing to approximately 20' in height. Among the named cultivars are:

Bamboo Bamboo

Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' - Exhibits cold hardiness to about -10oF.  The stems, more properly called culms, are a nice yellow with a green stripe.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis' - Has nice clear yellow culms without any stripes.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Harbin' - Beautiful yellow culms with showy green stripes.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Harbin' Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Harbin'

Other species of Phyllostachys that are reliable for our area are:

Phyllostachys bissetti - Is known to be hardy to -15 degrees. Can be used as both a hedge and as a grove. Reaches heights of about 20'.

Phyllostachys nuda - Handsome dark, almost forest green culms (shoots).  Can reach a height of  25 ft.  Super hardy to -20 degrees F.  The culms are said to be extra showy when first emerging in spring.  (When bamboo begins to grow in spring it is said to be shooting.)

The bamboo genus Fargesia provides the following:

Fargesia nitida- Called Fountain Bamboo. This is evergreen in our zone 6 coastalConnecticut planting area. Among the available cultivars are 'McClure' and 'Nymphenburg'. Reliably hardy to -20 degrees F. These varieties grow to about 12' tall.

Fargesia nitida seedlings Fargesia nitida seedlings

Fargesia murielae - Known commonly as Umbrella Bamboo. Hardy to at least -20 degrees F.  Only buy nursery stock that is new generation. Old stock may be approaching flowering mode. This is one of the bamboo species in which the original parent plant dies after flowering. Height at maturity is approximately 10'.

Fargesia rufa - or Green Panda™ is a relative new comer toNorth America. A favorite diet of the giant panda in Western Sichuan,China this hardy bamboo will be a great addition to your garden. Growing to eight feet in height the orange-red sheaths and deep green leaves will provide a nice hedge or screen at maturity when planted in groups.

This specimen is hardy to -15°F and grows well in zone 6. Green Panda is sun tolerant and performs equally well in shade. If you are looking for a non-running evergreen to add color and flair to your garden or terrace this is the one.

Also good for groundcover situations are: (These groundcovers are of the runner/invasive type.)

Sasa veitchii - common name is Kumazasa. This is traditional bamboo of Japanese gardens. It grows to about 4' in height and makes an excellent hedge.

Sasa veitchii Sasa veitchii

Pleioblastus pygmeus - called Pygmy Bamboo, this 2' variety is an aggressive groundcover. Can be used is areas in which you might otherwise resort to groundcovers such as pachysandra, Periwinkle, and Ivy. This plant is cold hardy to -10oF.

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