Monday, October 11, 2010

How it started, part 4 — ...then came bamboo

Life as we knew it changed in March of 2009 when I went to a plant sale in Sacramento. There they were, plants with stalks of different colors and patterns (that was before I knew that these "stalks" are called "culms") and the most beautiful foliage, swaying gently in the breeze. Bamboo, sold by a guy aptly calling himself Mad Man Bamboo. After talking to Mad Man for a while, I bought three 5-gallon plants: two Chinese Goddess bamboos (known to bamboophiles as Bambusa multiplex 'Riviereorum') and a White Dragon bamboo (Fargesia dracocephala 'White Dragon'). 

The two Chinese Goddesses went into large glazed pots on either side of our front door where they immediately looked at home.

091221_Bambusa multiplex 'Golden Goddess' 1
Bambusa multiplex 'Riviereorum' in pots next to front door
The White Dragon bamboo went into a pot under the bay trees in the back yard.

091106_whitedragon
Fargesia dracocephala 'White Dragon'
in pot under bay tree
Since then, quite a few more bamboos have moved in. Most have come from Mad Man, who has proven to be a consistent enabler of this obsession of mine (thanks, Sean!). Along with my collection of bamboos, my knowledge of these beautiful plants has increased as well. I've spent many hours reading books and online sources and I'm glad I did because there are bamboos which can become invasive. Most of the invasive species are running bamboos whose rhizomes—the underground stems from which new culms emergecan travel many feet during each growing season. This is of particular concern in a neighborhood like ours where lots are very small. For this reason, all my running bamboos are confined to pots. When they get too big, I'll take them out of their pots and divide them, or else move them to my in-law's property in Mount Shasta in far Northern California.

All the bamboos that are in the ground in our yard are clumping bamboos. The growth pattern of clumping bamboos is similar to most landscape shrubs, or ornamental grasses. They gradually expand outward from the center so the clump does increase over time, but they never send out underground rhizomes that run uncontrolled every which way.

We have two groups of clumping bamboos in our yard: tropical and subtropical clumpers which love our hot-summer climate, and montane bamboos hailing from high-altitude regions in Asia. The latter species aren't too fond of heat but still manage to do well here in the shade because our evenings and nights are cool even in the middle of summer.

I've describe the bamboos in our front and back yard in two separate posts:

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