When most people think of bamboo, its natural to think of a tall, upright grove or forest, full of beauty. Some beautiful examples of large bamboo specimens can be found in places such as the Sagano Bamboo Forrest at Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan; or the famous bamboo groves found on the way to Hana on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Some of these groves have culms as tall as 75 feet.
Contrary to what many think of as the most beautiful bamboo, some of the most beautiful bamboo, in my opinion, are four feet or less - what I call - 'miniature' bamboo. These small bamboos offer some dazzling qualities that can add interest to most gardens. Ironically enough, despite their small stature, these small running bamboo are among some of the most aggressive and are recommended to be used as potted plants only, unless you have room for these small plants to roam. As a landscape plant, these 'miniature' bamboo plants are often used as a groundcover.
Here is a sample of what I consider to be the best of the 'miniature' running bamboos:
Pleioblastus humilis 'Albovariegatus' - less than four feet - some afternoon shade. This variety was introduced into the United States by the late bamboo pioneer Gerald Bol in 1994.
Pleioblastus viridistriatus 'Dwarf Greenstripe' - less than three feet - needs mostly shade, especially in the afternoon (even more important in Sacramento's hot summer afternoons).
Pleioblastus fortunei 'Dwarf Whitestripe' - less than four feet - needs mostly shade.
Some other interesting bamboo 'miniatures' include - Pleioblastus distichus 'Mini' (less than one foot); Pleioblastus linearis 'Nana' (less than four feet) and Pleioblastus akebono (less than two feet) and Pleioblastus pygmaeus 'Pygmy Bamboo' (less than two feet).
Some other interesting smaller varieties that are not 'miniature,' but work well for containers include:
Indocalamus tessellatus - grows to about four feet, but can grow up to 10 feet in ideal conditions. The leaves grow as long as 26 inches long by 5 inches wide.
Sasa veitchii 'Kuma-Zasa' - Max height is five feet, usually less. Needs shade in the afternoon in Sacramento.
Every year, these 'miniature' bamboos regenerate new leaves starting in March and in many cases as with Pleioblastus viridistriatus 'Dwarf Greenstripe' and Plieoblastus fortunei 'Dwarf Whitestripe', the old winter worn leaves can be mowed down all together to make room for the new brilliant growth.
While the big bamboos often steal the limelight, these 'miniature' bamboos shouldn't be overlooked. These small bamboo don't carry around alot of height, but certainly alot of character. They are a perfect addition to any Sacramento landscape that has some shade on the patio or in the garden.
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Don't miss our April 9, 2011 Bamboo Open House in Rocklin, CA - details coming soon.