Thursday, October 21, 2010

Three new bamboos in my collection

I just finished potting up the contents of a “goodie box” I received from Alan, a fellow bamboo aficionado and garden blogger. Alan kindly sent me divisions of three bamboo species I didn’t have yet in my collection: Sasaella bitchuensis, Sasa tsuboiana, and Pleioblastus distichus.

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My goodies from Alan

Sasaella bitchuensis is a low-growing bamboo from Japan that grows quite aggressively and is often used for erosion control. In our small yard, it needs to be contained so it doesn’t invade areas where it’s not wanted. I find its leaves to be very attractive and I’m very happy to have it in my collection. Sasaellas are shade-tolerant, and I plan to find a permanent home for it in a wide but shallow pot under the bay trees in our back yard. Alan recently transplanted some bitchuensis in his own yard, with beautiful results.

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Sasaella bitchuensis
Here’s a closeup of the healthy-looking rhizomes (and a stowaway earthworm). The rhizomes will make new culms next year, and I expect the plant to increase in width quite substantially within a year.
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Sasaella bitchuensis rhizomes

Sasa tsuboiana looks similar to Sasaella bitchuensis at first glance, at least when both are small. However, tsuboiana has the potential to grow to 6 ft. Like all sasas, it can be invasive if not kept in check. In our yard, that means confinement to a pot sitting on top of a concrete stepping stone so it cannot get away. I think it’ll place it near our Hibanobambusa tranquilans 'Shiroshima' because that plant’s brightly variegated leaves would contrast very well with the deep green leaves of tsuboiana.

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Sasa tsuboiana

Pleioblastus distichus is one of the smallest bamboos. It’s tough and very cold-hardy. The leaves are arranged like fans, which results in a very unique look for a bamboo. As Alan reports on his blog, this species is very active and requires careful monitoring and maintenance so it doesn't run rampant. Like the Sasaella bitchuenis, I’ll plant my distichus in a large shallow bowl under the bay trees in our back yard. It’ll add color and texture in an area where hardly anything grows because of the bay trees’ root system.

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Pleioblastus distichus

I potted these three new additions in a mixture of E.B. Stone Firmulch and Miracle Gro Moisture Control potting mix that I got on sale at Home Depot. (I generally find these high-tech mixes to be outrageously overpriced, but on sale it wasn’t much more than regular potting soil.) Firmulch is actually a great product that adds a lot of things bamboos love, such as chicken manure, earthworm castings, bat guano and kelp meal. It might be wishful thinking, but I’m convinced that bamboos (and pretty much everything else) do grow faster in heavily amended soil.

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Firmulch Soil Conditioner

Here are the three potted plants (the two larger ones in 2-gallon pots, the Pleioblastus distichus in a 1-gallon pot). The plan is to overwinter them in these plastic nursery pots and then find a more permanent home for them in the spring. Gotta wait for a good sale on shallow ceramic bowls at one of my favorite pottery places in our area, Panama Pottery in Sacramento.

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Potted divisions

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