Stocking the stock tanks in our back yard
I always look forward to Saturdays because I get to sleep in and work in the garden as much as I want to. On the agenda today: Planting the bamboos I picked up from Bamboo Sourcery in the stock tanks we set up in our back yard a few weeks ago.
There were two major factors that influenced my selection of bamboos for these stock tanks. In each tank I wanted a taller bamboo with small leaves and a shorter one with large leaves; the taller one would ideally be no higher than 10-15 ft. because of the bay trees overhead. In addition, the bamboos would have to be shade-tolerant because the bay trees block most of the sun.
Considering there are many hundreds of varieties of bamboo you’d think that I’d have at least 50 to choose from. However, with the limitations we had to contend with, there were far fewer candidates than I had expected.
I opted for running bamboos instead of clumping because I want the tanks to be filled with culms in just 2-3 years. Clumping bamboos would have remained in discrete clumps and I would have had to plant more than just two plants per tank.
This is what I finally selected:
For the stock tank on the left, (1) Indocalamus tessellatus, a relatively short bamboo (4 ft. on average) with huge leaves (up to 24” long), and (2) Pleioblastus gramineus, a 10-12 ft. runner that produces lots of canes in close proximity and eventually forms a tight hedge. Pleioblastus gramineus has thin, graceful leaves that give it the look of a “grass tree” and are a beautiful juxtaposition next to the oversized leaves of the Indocalamus tessellatus.
For the stock tank on the right, (1) Sasa megalophylla ‘Densa’, a running bamboo very similar to Indocalamus tessellatus with leaves that are a tad smaller, and (2) Yushania maculata, a 10-12 ft. species with distinctive blue-green culms and glossy narrow leaves. In his recently published book Practical Bamboos, UK bamboo expert Paul Whittaker calls Yushania maculata one of his favorite bamboos. I must admit I based my selection in no small part on Whittaker’s recommendation. Yushania maculata is a relatively recent introduction from China and still quite rare so I was not able to look at a mature specimen.
When you buy bamboos, the plants you get from the nursery are often sparse with just a few wispy culms, or else a bit on the scruffy side. I’ve learned not to worry about that because what you really pay for is the underground stuff—rhizomes and roots—that will soon produce much better looking above-ground growth. My plants from Bamboo Sourcery were no exception, especially the Sasa megalophylla ‘Densa’ and Yushania maculata for the right stock tank. Next year, once they have produced new culms, I will prune out the unsightly old growth and we’ll then have the finished look that right now only exists in my mind.
|The Pleioblastus gramineus was stuck in its nursery container so I gave it a good whacking all the way around and it finally came out|
|Very nice looking rhizomes and roots on Pleioblastus gramineus |
| This is the left stock tank with Indocalamus tessellatus on the left and Pleioblastus gramineus on the right|
| Alternate view of this stock tank, with the large-leafed Indocalamus tessellatus in the foreground|
When I removed the Sasa megalophylla for the right-hand stock tank from its nursery container, I saw that the root ball was alive with thousands upon thousands of tiny ants. I wasn’t too keen on introducing an ant colony in our pristine stock tank so I plopped the sasa in a bucket and filled it with water. Within minutes ants had run up the culms and congregated on the leaves. I hosed off the leaves several times and eventually was able to get rid of most of the ants before I planted the sasa in the stock tank.
|Sasa megalophylla leaf with escaping ants|
|Right-hand stock tank with Yushania maculata on the left (three bare culms) and Sasa megalophylla ‘Densa’ on the right|
The Yushania maculata has two new shoots that haven’t even leaved out yet, and one mature culm that is about 10 ft. tall (see above). Curiously enough, there are no branches further down on this tall culm. I wonder if they’ve been removed at the nursery? Many of the photos I’ve seen of this species do show branching further down on the culm.
| Mature culm on Yushania maculata reaching well into the branches of the bay tree above it|
I’m pleased with my selection of bamboos for these two 2x2x6 ft. stock tanks. Now I have to be patient while the plants settle into their new home and grow the underground structure needed to produce new culms with lush leaves. But then, we all know that the sweet thrill of anticipation is a big part of what we love about gardening!
AUGUST 2011 UPDATE: Click here to read about changes to the stock tanks.