Visiting Mad Man Bamboo

On Saturday I visited Man Man Bamboo in Rocklin, CA, about 20 minutes east of Sacramento. This small backyard bamboo nursery is run by Sean Bigley and his wife Christy. Most of the bamboos in our yard are from Sean. He has been very good to me over the years, not only supplying me with top-notch plant material, but also giving me expert advice.

Today I had my camera along so I took some photos of the Bigley’s beautiful and peaceful home nursery.

Mad Man Bamboo himself, Sean Bigley

Sean sells several dozen varieties of both clumping and running bamboos and can special-order rare and exotic species he doesn’t have in stock. In the next two photos, you can see just a few of the many 5- and 15-gallon plants he has for sale.

Back yard with potted bamboos for sale
Potted bamboos for sale; giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) on the right

Sometimes bamboos grown in unexpected ways. Take a look at the next photo.

This potted sweetshoot bamboo (Phyllostachys dulcis) has no above-ground growth but a rhizomes escaping through a drain hole has turned into a culm (this is called a “whipshoot”).

I’m a big fan of clumping tropical bamboos, and I just love how the two bambusas in the next photo complement each other—I think it’s a very successful combination of foliage textures. Sean also has a few other oldhamiis that are now producing impressively thick culms.

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Giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) on the left, punting pole bamboo (Bambusa tuldoides) on the right


Here’s a new oldhamii shoot. For bamboo lovers, seeing new shoots popping out of the ground is one of the most exciting aspects of growing bamboos.

Bambusa oldhamii shoot arriving late in the season; hard to say whether it will survive the winter and continue its journey skyward in the spring. But even if it dies, there’ll be more shoots next year.

In addition to many common varieties, Sean also has some rarities, like this Dr. Don, a cultivar of the common golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) whose culms are covered with a white powder (called “bloom” in botanical jargon) that gives them a bluish look.

Dr. Don bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea ‘Dr. Don’) in a stock tank very similar to what we have in our back yard
Close-up of Dr. Don culms

I love the look of the potted arrow bamboo in the following photo. I hadn’t seen an oval glazed pot like that before. I think the combination of the unusual pot and the large, almost tropical leaves of the arrow bamboo creates a compelling focal point.

Potted arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica)

Planted right next to the Bigley’s front porch is a green Buddha belly that is beginning to throw impressive culms. This one had to be topped otherwise it would have grown right into the porch roof.

Nice-sized culm on green Buddha Belly (Bambusa ventricosa)

The bambusas shown in the next photo complement each other beautifully in terms of culm color and leaf texture. I think it is a very successful planting.

Bamboo tapestry (from left to right): Buddha belly (Bambusa ventricosa), Alphonse Karr (Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’), Golden Goddess (Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’)

Holiday decorations and bamboo? Why not! Throw a strand of lights over a tropical clumper like this Chinese Goddess, one of the smallest bambusas, and your yard looks like it could be in Florida or Hawaii.

Chinese Goddess bamboo (Bambusa multiplex 'Riviereorum') with holiday lights

More information about Mad Man Bamboo:


  1. Thanks for sharing this, enjoyed reading and getting an insight into his collection.

    I do like Bambusas, if only they are hardy enough here!

    I haven't seen a Dr. Don yet in the UK but hopefully one would circulate in the nurseries here soon.

  2. Mark and Gaz, Dr. Don was apparently discovered at Bamboo Garden in Oregon: The coloring is really beautiful, especially in conjunction with the distorted internodes so prevalent on aurea.

    Sean has lots of other interesting bamboos but I didn't have time to photograph them yesterday.

  3. I think P.aurea is the closest you can get here in achieving that P. heterocycla look (which doesn't perform well in our cooler location).

    The blue tint of Dr. Don is a big plus!


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