Monday, October 11, 2010

Bamboos in our front yard

Our front yard was already in decent shape before I discovered bamboo. However, in the spirit of making a good thing even better, we planted several tropical clumpers that will provide both shade and an exotic ambience.

The biggest change came about when in January of 2010 the City of Davis removed a diseased Bradford pear. This tree was the messiest thing you've seen, and I wasn't sad to see it go (well, I do miss the shade it gave). Here's the house with the tree. You can clearly see the mistletoe infestation that led to its demise.

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Mistletoe-infested Bradford pear, February 2009
Immediately afterwards, we replaced the pear tree with a 5-gallon sized giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii). I picked this particular species because it thrives in our hot-summer climate and has the potential to grow to 55 feet. Initially, it looked small and lost in the space:

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Bambusa oldhamii right after planting, February 2010
However, since then it has tripled in size and is now sending up culms that are almost 1 inch in diameter. That's still leagues away from the potential 5 inch culms that a mature oldhamii can produce, but the front of the house isn't looking quite as lost any more.

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Bambusa oldhamii, October 2010
The area behind the gate (on the left in the photos above) had been a bit of a no-man's land since the remodel. For the first year it was lawn, then I planted a couple of banana trees. I wasn't happy with the way it looked, especially knowing that the bananas would routinely be knocked back by winter frost and would look crappy six months out of the year.

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Bananas in front yard, May 2009
In March 2010, Heather saw Craigslist post from a local man who was selling divisions off his mature Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr' for $25 so I snapped one up. I planted it behind the gate where the middle banana had been. At about the same time, I ordered a Bambusa chungii 'Barbellata', from a place in Florida and planted it where the left banana had been.

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Bambusa in our front yard, March 2010
I moved two of the bananas into pots and initially left the other one in the ground (the tiny one on the right in the photo above). That turned out to be a mistake because that tiny Musa basjoo grew to 10 ft. over the next six months and had six pups. I eventually removed them because there simply wasn't enough room for all these bananas AND the Alphonse Karr. Lesson learned: Don't plant too close together!

This is what the same spot looks like now, in mid-October:

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Bambusa oldhamii (left, outside fence), Bambusa chungii (middle),
Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr' (right)
I can already see the need to take some divisions off the Alphonse Karr next spring to create more space between it and the Barbellata. There's plenty of room to the right of the Alphonse Karr so I'm going to encourage it to grow in that direction by putting metal flashing and stepping stones on the ground to the left of it.

The latest in-ground addition in the front yard is a Bambusa eutuldoides 'Viridivittata', or Asian lemon bamboo. I planted it from a 15-gallon container on the inside of our fence near the south corner of our patio. Its striking yellow culms will add a nice pop of color and its eventual 25 ft. height will provide welcome afternoon shade for the patio.

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Bambusa eutuldoides 'Viridivittata'

Speaking of patio, in the corner is another Fargesia dracocephela ‘Rufa’ in a pot. It gets hot on the patio (above 100° in the summer), but since the Rufa is shielded from direct sunlight, it’s doing very well.

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Fargesia dracocephela ‘Rufa’ on front patio

In the works: We're hoping that the city of Davis will agree to remove another Bradford pear tree on our property. Its mistletoe infestation is even worse than the one they removed in January, and the bark is beginning to crack and peel. It looks very unhealthy and we're worried limbs might start to fall off under the weight of the mistletoe. If and when the tree is removed, we will replace it with an Emerald bamboo (Bambusa textilis 'Mutabilis'). I bought a 15-gallon specimen at Bamboo Sourcery when Sean and I went to their going-out-of-business sale a few weeks ago.

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Bambusa textilis 'Mutabilis'

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