Using bamboo in your landscape serves many functions and takes some consideration to find the right plants. While I'm not a landscape architect or designer, I can impart some "wisdom" on some of the key questions you should ask yourself as you decide on the right bamboo plants to select for your landscape. Here are the top five key questions to ask yourself:
1. What are the sun conditions in my landscape? Bamboo is a plant species that contains many different varieties. Many can take full sun during the summertime while others need shade most of the day. Knowing the light conditions in your landscape ahead of time will help you decide which type of bamboo to use for specific parts of the landscape. There no worse sight than to see a bamboo plant that needs afternoon shade, fry in the hot Summer afternoon sun.
2. What's the lowest annual temperature in my area? While many gardeners rely on the Sunset Zone classification, bamboo growers track temperature tolerance. Knowing your lowest average winter temperature helps you select a bamboo plant that won't suffer significant damage or die during that hard winter freeze. Some bamboo varieties can take temperatures down to 21 degrees F, while others can survive in negative 10 degrees F.
Himalayacalamus hookerianus 'Teague's Blue' is great as an ornamental feature bamboo, but not as a privacy hedge
3. What is the landscape "need" or function I need from bamboo? Some bamboo plants lend to showy culms and are a great ornamental feature in the landscape, but are so open and wispy that they don't offer privacy. Others, may be less showy, but serve well as dense, beautiful privacy screens. Again, it's all about assessing the location of the bamboo and the function you intend the bamboo plant to serve in the landscape.
4. How tall do I want the bamboo to be? Height is a key consideration for bamboo. Look up. Are their overhead utility wires? Am I trying to just covering the top of a fence or am I trying to block the view of my neighbor's two story house? These are all key considerations when siting a specific bamboo plant.
Bamboo rhizome barrier, used as a way to encircle running bamboo in a trench, is an effective way to control running bamboo.
5. Running or clumping? This is the "mother of all questions" to ask yourself and ponder. While running bamboo is faster growing, an uncontrolled running bamboo can create a nightmare for you and your neighbors. Running bamboo can be successfully incorporated into a landscape by installing bamboo rhizome barrier (pictured above) or containing it in a pot or horse trough. A more attractive option for many urban and suburban homeowners is to use clumping bamboo. Tightly clumped in most cases, it offers predictability and practicality. The trade-off with running bamboo is that it is generally slower growing than running bamboo, but faster than the average bush or shrub used for privacy hedging.
Know the answers to these top five key questions will help you make the right bamboo plants selection for your landscape. It's also always a good idea to work with landscape designers and nurseries that know bamboo and have used it before in landscape designs. The right selection of bamboo for a specific landscape project will lead to happy bamboo plants and happy homeowners for years to come.
Mad Man Bamboo - Rocklin, CA
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