Coffee & bamboo

Bodega Bay is one of our favorite places on the Northern California coast for a quick getaway. There are several different routes to Bodega Bay, and my favorite is via State Road 116, the Gravenstein Highway, through the town of Sebastopol. We drive this route three or four times a year, and every time we go by by a funky-looking coffee shop surrounded by potted bamboos. This time I decided to finally stop—to take a look at the bamboo as much as to have a latte.

Hardcore Espresso, as it turns out, is quite a destination, regularly placing in regional “best of” rankings. My latte was outstanding, as were the donuts the girls had, but the real attraction for me were the plantings, especially the bamboos.

Hardcore Espresso on the outskirts of Sebastopol, CA

As you can see in the photos below, the bamboos are planted in old bathtubs. I’ve seen bamboos in many different containers, but never in bathtubs. I think it’s a very clever solution to keep running bamboos in check, and it perfectly fits the ambience, which, according to reviews on Yelp, is variously described as “charmingly bizarre,” “funky”, “divey,” and hippy-ish.”

The bamboo tubs create shade and privacy

Most of the bamboos were running bamboos of the genus Phyllostachys. I saw black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) in two bathtubs, and I believe another bathtub contained Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’. There was one other Phyllostachys species I wasn’t able to identify; it had greenish yellow culms and could have been regular golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) although I didn’t spot any compressed internodes so typical for this species.

But it isn’t really important what varieties these bamboos are. What matters is that the most useful quality of bamboo is being harnessed to maximum effect: creating instant landscaping that provides privacy (in this case for patrons) and adds lushness to an otherwise bleak environment (a sun-drenched shack verging on the ramshackle). The informal look resulting from just letting the bamboo grow however it wants was perfect here.

Left in half barrel: Fernleaf bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Fernleaf’), the only clumping bamboo I saw at Hardcore Espresso
Right in bathtub: Phyllostachys species with yellow culms and green sulcus, possibly Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’ although I didn’t see the typical compressed internodes
Same Phyllostachys species as above
Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra).
Relatively few culms had turned black; many were still green.
110803_hardcore_ph_nigra1 110803_hardcore_sebastopol_05
More Phyllostachys (nigra on the left, unidentified on the right)

Bamboos weren’t the only plants on display. Other planters, mostly half barrels, contained palms, tropical plants, and taller succulents. The overall effect is one of an inviting roadside oasis that you can’t help but notice as you drive by.

I wish more businesses realized how important landscaping can be in attracting customers. Hardcore Espresso demonstrates that all you need is a variety of old containers and a healthy dose of imagination!

Left: canna ‘Tropicanna’
Right: Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis)
Left: butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.)
Right: Spanish dagger (Yucca gloriosa)

Hardcore Espresso is located at 1798 Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol, CA 95472. Click here to see a map.

Sebastopol is also home to Bamboo Sourcery, recently reopened. I would have loved to stop by, but there were too many passengers in the car who would have rioted (plus I didn’t have an appointment anyway). Click here for a post on my trip to Bamboo Sourcery in November.

I wonder if the bamboos at Hardcore Espresso came from Bamboo Sourcery?


  1. I totally agree on how important hard landscaping is in enticing customers to go in to your shop, and indeed more retail/businesses should incorporate better planting in their area. The place really does look inviting and I like the way the containerised plants really adds to the cool atmosphere of the coffee shop :)

  2. Nice blog! I just found you and I too plant bamboo and more in my land park (Sacramento) yard! Giant grasses really transform a space, creating the inviting enclosed feeling I love! I'm off to look at all your prior posts now!

  3. Annimal, welcome to my blog! I'm so happy you found me. Will check your blog for photos of your yard. Which bamboos do you grow?


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