Bambusa bonanza

The recent summer heat—late this year by historical standards—has kicked the subtropical clumping bamboos in our front yard into high gear. The existing culms (or “canes” as many people call them) are heavy with lush foliage, and new shoots are beginning to poke out of the ground.

This is a stitched panorama of the bamboos as seen from the front door (to the right is our large succulent bed).


In the next photo, the darker green bamboo on the left is giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii), the lighter green in the middle is baby blue bamboo (Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’) and the shorter one on the right, a bit hard to see, is Alphonse Karr bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’).


From this angle, the dominating bamboo is Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’; on the right is a close-up of a new culm that still retains its white coating.

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Here are two of the half dozen new shoots on Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’.


Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’ is busy shooting, too. Here are just a few of the new shoots. While clumping bamboos require less maintenance than running bamboos, I still remove shoots and culms that I don’t want, mainly for aesthetic reasons.


The next photo shows two other bambusas in our front yard. On the left, next to the sago palm, is Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridividatta’, try saying THAT three times fast!). It has one new shoot but it hasn’t grown much so it may abort. This bamboo shoots relatively late in the fall, which is why one of last year’s culms got killed by the winter frost (it hadn’t had time to harden off).

To the right is emerald bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis’). It has one very crooked shoot as you will see further down.

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The same plants as seen from the street. Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridividatta’ is on the right, and Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis’ is on the left. Check out that shoot sticking out to the right. Normally Bambusa textilis produces fairly straight culms.

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Walking around the outside of the front yard back towards the front door, you get a better view of Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’. Some culms are overhanging the walkway and will need to be trimmed. If you make a cut right above a node (i.e. right above a bundle of branches), it’s virtually invisible and the culm, lighter now, will return to a more upright position.


This is the giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) seen from the street. It definitely dominates the spot that had once been occupied by a nasty Bradford pear; even now, 2½ years after it was removed, I still fight suckers that seem to pop up over night.


Currently there are five new culms on the Bambusa oldhamii, about the same diameter as last year (in the 2½ inch range). This year I’ve cut back on fertilizing and watering all the bamboos in the front yard because I want to slow them down as much as possible. All bamboos are lush and vibrant so no ill effects so far.


And finally let me introduce you to a secret dweller of our bamboo jungle. My daughters call him Chess, after the Cheshire cat in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. We have no idea who he belongs to, but we often find Chess hanging out between the bamboos. Last night I was finally able to take a few photos before I scared him off.



  1. Lovely, looking like a cool place to relax from the heat. Chess seems to enjoy it!

    1. The bamboos make the front yard look cool even on a hot day. Of course it's an illusion. When it'S 100° it's still 100° :-).

  2. Love these shots of your beautiful garden! It's still a thrill for me to see bamboo culms popping out of the ground!

  3. Hot damn! Pun intended.

    How old is your oldhamii when compared to your Alphonse Karr? Because on my property, they're about tied for culm height (although not thickness). They both get similar amounts of water and light. Maybe this is a San Mateo vs. Davis phenomenon; even in the summer, we often have fog until 10:00ish and most summer days are mid-70s. It wouldn't surprise me if oldhamii is 'more tropical' than AK and likes as much heat as it can get.

    That's a pretty wild culm on your textilis! Mine is really tall and slender, in contrast. Probably the skinniest height relative to width that I have.

    You're inspiring me to go take some photos of my D. minor amoenus and B. emiensis today.

    1. The oldhamii is actually the younger of the two. Both have been in the ground for 2 1/2 years. The oldhamii started out as a 5-gallon plant about 5 ft tall, the Alphonse Karr was a mature division I got from a local guy (the clump was at least two feet across).

      Sean Bigley AKA Madman Bamboo confirms that oldhamii thrives on heat (they use it for landscaping in Las Vegas). Without 95°F days it may not grow all that tall in San Mateo.

      Would love to see photos of your Dendrocalamus minor 'Amoenus' and Bambusa emeiensis. Those are beautiful bamboos. Will check your blog later today.

    2. Hi Gerhard, a few days late, but here are some new pics of the 'amoenus':

  4. Cats love bamboo! When I had a few strays in my yard, they always went for the bamboo. The one that comes around every so often loves hanging out in them too. (They like eating the leaves too I've found).

    I'm not going to comment on the bamboos in your garden, because I'm jealous of anybody who can grow the subtropical clumpers.

    1. Haven't seen Chess today. I probably traumatized him the other day when I stuck my camera in his face. Although if he truly likes bamboo he'll be back because nobody else in our neighborhood has bamboo.

  5. Great bamboo shots! Makes me wonder why I don't have bamboo in my garden. Hmm... -- Bom


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