Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I killed a goddess

A Golden Goddess, to be precise.

Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’ is a clumping bamboo that has a reputation for being super easy to grow in moderate climates (it’s hardy to 15°F or so) and virtually indestructible. All true, unless you don’t water it. It does not like that at all!

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Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’ (one in each of the green pots) in its heyday last October
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The Golden Goddess to the left of the front door in May, looking very brown

Apparently the two drip emitters in the pot had been closed the all way so the plant didn’t get watered for an unknown period of time. Maybe a week, maybe two. Eventually the roots had extracted all the moisture they could from the soil and the leaves began to curl—a warning sign I missed. After that, it wouldn’t have taken long for the leaves to dry up and turn brown. Containerized plants are much more dependent on us humans for their survival needs, and I completely failed this Golden Goddess.

I must add here that the plant had grown tremendously since I put it in this pot almost three years ago. It had extended to the edge of the pot and would have needed to be divided soon anyway. I could have tried to revive the plant, betting on its remarkable will to live, but in all honesty I didn’t want to put up with an eyesore in such a visible spot for what could have been months. So I made the decision to remove the plant altogether—a process that turned out to be a bit tricky because of the container’s urn shape. Reminder to myself: For bamboo, always use a V-shaped container that is wider at the top than at the bottom so the whole plant slides out easily.

The first step in the removal process was to cut off all the culms, taking care not to drop too many leaves all over the succulent bed. The resulting pile of culms looked less impressive than I had expected.

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Removed culms
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Plant after I’d cut off all the culms

The next step was to get the rhizomes and roots out of the pot. In an effort to get this over with as quickly as possible, I got out my reciprocating saw. After making a dozen cuts or so I was able to yank out the rhizomes, which, I should add, were fairly dainty. A few more turns with the saw left the roots in manageable pieces and soon they were pulled out, too.

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Culms, rhizomes, and roots at the curb, waiting for yard waste pickup

I saved a few of the most promising rhizome sections and repotted them. The rhizome buds in the next photo look good and will hopefully produce new culms. Time will tell.

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The green pot is empty now and the bow window looks very exposed. But this is just temporary. Plans are to move the Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata subsp. aztecorum) barely visible on the right all the way over to left where the purple fountain grass currently is. The Mexican weeping bamboo will soften the corner with its lacy leaves and be able to deal with the late-afternoon sun better than the fountain grass did.

The green pot will be home to a Rhodocoma capensis, an upright yet bushy restio from South Africa, which—unlike many other restios—is fairly drought-tolerant. It only grows to 5 ft. so it won’t be the massive presence the Golden Goddess had been. I’ll post an update after I’ve planted the restio. In the meantime, the empty pot is a reminder that nothing in a garden is—or has to be—forever. Change is good.

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5/22/11 UPDATE:

The restio, Rhodocoma capensis, has been planted. Click here for photos.

5/30/11 UPDATE:

I removed the second Golden Goddess and replaced it with a Rhodocoma capensis as well. Click here for photos.

4 comments:

  1. That's the problem I always had with irrigation systems: you're "hands off" and it's too easy to miss problems.

    Bummer. Still, probably best the plant was removed now -- in a year or two you may never have been able to get it out of the pot without using a hammer.

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  2. Alan, unfortunately we need to water at least five months out of the year so there's no getting around an irrigation system. I do check every single emitter each spring but for some reason I missed this pot.

    I like these green pots, but they're eminently UNSUITED for bamboo. I know better now than I did three years ago.

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  3. Those rhizomes look pretty decent. I bet they revive.

    Regarding rhodocoma capensis, I've found them to be a bit more susceptible to sun exposure than I would have thought. One of my three that has the most southern exposure has portions of the foliage that have turned from vibrant green to rust brown.

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  4. DD, I wonder if that's just an acclimation issue. According to PlatzAfrica, it grows in a "a very dry and hot landscape." That gives me hope.

    But ultimately very little appears to be known about how these restios do in Northern California. You and I, we're pioneers :-).

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