Let the light in: much-needed bamboo thinning taming

The three clumping bamboos in the front yard (all of them Bambusa species) are happy and healthy even on a much less generous watering regime than in the old days before the drought. That, in turn, makes me happy because I love the lushness they contribute to our garden.

For most of the year, I just let the 'boos do their thing. In the winter, however, when the sun is low in the sky, it becomes obvious how much the Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides 'Viridi-vittata') shades the smaller succulent mound. Take a look at the photo below to see what I mean.

The Asian lemon bamboo is a fairly dense clump of culms and leaves:

It looks great, but it creates more shade than the other plants need or want.

Now that curbside yard material collection has been reduced to once a month here in Davis, we try to do heavy-duty pruning and similar chores on the weekend before the monthly pickup. That way we can chop to our heart's content and simply pile the trimmings in the gutter instead of trying to shove everything into the yard waste bin.

Sunday afternoon was dry so Heather and I tackled the Asian lemon bamboo. I ended up being a bit more aggressive than I had set out to be, but there'll be plenty of new growth before we know it. Here is the after photo:

Moving in a little closer—before:

And after:

The difference is like night and day. I think this bamboo is even more beautiful when the culms are spaced farther apart.

Here's the pile in the gutter:

What we removed and what's left (behind the street light):

Since more rain was imminent, I worked as fast as I could. This resulted in ragged and unsightly "stumps." Making everything look pretty will be a chore for a warmer day.

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  1. Wow, you really went crazy, no doubt the succulents will appreciate it.

    1. In an ideal world, I'd do this kind of thinning twice a year. But I just never have time for that kind of routine maintenance.

  2. Gerhard, what do you use to chop your bamboo with? Machete? Pruning shears? Saw?

    1. Brennie, I love the concept of a machete, but I'd lose limbs if I tried to use one!

      I use Fiskars PowerGear2 loppers. They cut pretty much everything I need to cut, short of thicker tree branches.

  3. I love the grace and elegance of bamboo--in other people's gardens. Will the bamboo grow back fast enough to give you additional summer shade? With your hot summers, the shade must be most welcome.

    That first photo is a wonderful angle of your garden.

  4. I would have agonized over a thinning like that , but completely support providing the needed sun for your succulent bed. Fortunately Bamboo looks beautiful in just about any configuration.

  5. Great work! And hopefully all the other plants will enjoy the extra sunshine.

  6. I can relate, I've got similar rambunctious plants in my garden, including bamboo. I have the benefit of help to take on these tasks, and fill up a truck bed cab high 3x a year. Heliconias seem just as prone to build up huge biomass here in Berkeley.


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