The other day I had lunch at a friend’s house in the East Bay, and I couldn’t help but admire her row of Robert Young bamboo (Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young’) planted against the fence behind her swimming pool. The small leaves provide a tropical backdrop for the entire backyard, and the yellow culms contrast wonderfully with the blue tile of the pool.
Since Robert Young is a running bamboo, the entire planting bed is contained with rhizome barrier to prevent the spread of rhizomes under the fence into the neighboring yard and under the concrete walkway into the planting strip right next to the pool.
Robert Young is said to be a strong grower, especially in warmer climates. However, my friend’s plants are acting more like clumping bamboos, with very little “running” taking place so far. Lewis Bamboo says that this behavior is typical for Seattle, but my friend’s location near Walnut Creek is a far cry from Seattle, considering temperatures regularly climb to 90°F and above in the summer.
These plants have been in the ground for five years, and I would have thought they’d have reached their mature dimensions (40 ft. in height, with a culm diameter of 3 in.) by now. But like so many plants, bamboos have a mind of their own, doing what they want whenever they want it. In addition, homeowners typically don’t care about statistics the way bamboo geeks like us do. All they want is a plant that looks attractive and fulfills its intended purpose. And using those yardsticks, my friend’s Robert Young bamboos are an unqualified success.