Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Foothill College Bamboo Garden, part 2

In yesterday’s post, we covered about half of the Bamboo Garden at Foothill College in the wealthy Silicon Valley enclave of Los Altos Hills. Today we’ll complete the loop through this 2-acre bamboo paradise. Enjoy!

Bambusa beecheyana, a tropical clumper that in its native habitat in Southern China can reach truly epic heights (60 ft.)
Bambusa beecheyana culms that were strangely mottled.
It’s a nice effect, but I have no idea what causes it.
Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young’, commonly planted for its vibrant culm color. One of my favorite running bamboos.
120427_FoothillBG_Bambusa-multiplex-Alphonse-Karr- --textilis_01
LEFT: Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’
CENTER: Bambusa textilis
RIGHT: Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young’
If I were forced to pick a favorite bamboo, this would probably be it: Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ‘Aztecorum’). It’s not the most elegant bamboo—it looks a little like a shaggy dog—but there’s something wild and free about it that I love. I photographed a particularly beautiful specimen at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden in December (click here).
Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ‘Aztecorum’)
Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ‘Aztecorum’)
LEFT: Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridividatta’), just recently planted and smaller than the one in our front yard
CENTER: Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ‘Aztecorum’)
RIGHT: Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’
All of these three bamboos are subtropical clumpers that will take some frost.
Dendrocalamus asper, another truly magnificent (and gigantic) tropical clumper. Native to Thailand and Indonesia, it can grow to 100 (!) ft. in its native habitat and reach a culm diameter of up to 8 inches. Hardy only to 32°F. I’m surprised there wasn’t more frost damage since Los Altos Hills does have a few nights of temperatures below below freezing each winter.
Eric Fandel, my intrepid traveling companion for the day, taking closeups of Dendrocalamus asper
Dendrocalamus asper culms
Leopard or snakeskin bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra ‘Bory’) as seen from the top of the hill where Dendrocalamus asper is growing
Pleioblastus fortunei, an attractive variegated species that is among the most vigorous bamboos in existence, growing at the base of an unidentified running  bamboo
Path with Pleioblastus fortunei on the right
Another view of the gathering area in the Phyllostachys vivax grove I showed you in yesterday’s post
Punting pole bamboo (Bambusa tuldoides), a somewhat ignored but quite attractive clumping bamboo (hardy to 21°F)
View from the top of the hill
The bamboo on the right is Sinobambusa tootsik ‘Albostriata’, an elegant running bamboo with variegated leaves that in my yard has been maddeningly slow to upsize
(maybe because it’s in a pot?)
Here it was transcendently beautiful
Thamnocalamus spathiflorus, a species I had never even heard of before. Nice looking, too. This is a clumping bamboo from the eastern Himalayas that is hardy to 15°F.
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Bory’ up close. Many of the culms had hard water stains on them. Since rain water is soft, it must be from the irrigation. I saw standpipes that were about a foot tall, but these hard water stains extended all the way up to eye level. They must use a spray head that shoots up that high.  It’s clear the local water has a lot of calcium in it, which would explain the chlorosis (yellowing) of the phyllostachys leaves seen in many of yesterday’s photos.
Phyllostachys vivax, one of the giant running timber bamboos of China
Phyllostachys vivax
Phyllostachys vivax
Phyllostachys vivax. These culms get quite a bit of sun, which would explain their bleaching. But I was able to scratch off the white coating, so I assume it’s also caused by the hard water.
As was the case at Hakone, the most elegant bamboo at Foothill College Bamboo Garden was moso (Phyllostachys edulis). With its grayish green culms and its luminescent white internodes it’s one of the most recognizable bamboos—as well as the most valuable in economic terms. Most bamboo flooring sold in the U.S. (and presumably elsewhere) is made of moso. Avery Island, Louisiana, home of E. A. McIlhenny, the founder of TABASCO hot sauce, has extensive stands of moso.
Phyllostachys edulis

I would like to complement the folks maintaining the Foothill College Bamboo Garden for their excellent signage. Without their labels, Eric and I wouldn’t have recognized half of the specimens!


  1. Double wow! So many huge culms on those bamboos! And their specimen of Otatea is absolutely stunning! Wish I could grow them like that here...

    You've lucky to have so many beautiful gardens and nurseries relatively near you Gerhard!

    1. I do feel lucky to have so much diversity within easy driving distance. But judging from the posts on your blog, you certainly have your own share of fantastic gardens and nurseries!

  2. Very nice and thorough look at the place. I've seen some photos of it before, but never to this extent. Two acres doesn't sound like much but they put it to good use, especially with all of the clumpers. :-)

    1. Since there were so many bamboos--and so much variety--the Foothill College Bamboo Garden seemed much larger. But their website says 2 acres. In contrast, the Hakone estate is 18 acres, but not all of it is landscaped and open to the public.