Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gardening green... weed barrier fabric, not so good.

Plastic weed barrier fabric, the heavily marketed solution to keeping weeds away, is not green (no surpirse). Susan Brackney of Plenty Magazine writes that the plastic fabric, which you find at the major big box plant peddlers (they know who they are) is made with oil, a not so abundant resource (as well all know). Plus it throws off the balance between water content and air flow in the soil, detering beneficial microbes that help with healthy plant growth and development, through providing a healthy nutrient content in the soil.

The alternative, Brackney says, use newspaper, its biodegradable and keeps the weeds down, with a good mulch top layer or worm castings ("gardner's gold" in my mind). Helps the soil breate which ecourages growth of helpful microbes enhancing the soil's nutrient level.

Have a Happy Friday fellow gardners!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another day in the yard...

Decent temperatures today... mid 60's, rain forecast for tomorrow. That is a perfect time to propagate bamboo, as the temperature is just right and any propagated bamboo would certainly appreciate the rain-bound moisture to fight the shock from being pulled from the ground.

This is a culm of bambusa ventrosica "Buddha's Belly Kimmei." The Kimmei feature is the stripes and mature culms turn yellow with green stripes Note that I kept the dead portion on the culm which is a way to keep the frost (which we are not out of the woods yet here in California) away from live growth, despite my temptation to cut it off. Once I am free and clear of frost, this portion will go.
I was able to get two culms of the Buddha's belly and one from my Silverstripe bamboo which has a white stripe and interesting zig-zag growth (fourth photo).
These will be ready for sale in late summer/early fall. Couldn't pass up this perfect date to propagate bamboo.
Finally, I wanted to say how amazed I am with a cyclamen we planted that came from a family friend. No exageration, this cyclamen has looked the same from early spring 2007 through now. I love this plant!

Spring has almost sprung!


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day at the Sacramento Zoo...

It was a beautiful day in Sacramento, California. Took a trip to the zoo and caught some great photos of bamboo and other interesting plants (as usual, a big plant geek, I paid little attention to the animals). The first two pictures are of a Monkey Puzzle Tree. The next picture is of a blooming Camelia bush. The last three are of bamboo, the tall ones being "Japanese Giant Timber Bamboo" and the last a very interesting culm of what I think is phylostachys aurea "Holychrysa."



Friday, February 15, 2008

Signs of Spring now emerging....

Snapped a couple of photos today showing Spring has almost sprung, at least here in the Sacramento area.....

Pictured is an Amur Maple Tree left over from my days when I grew and sold Japanese Maples. The Japanese Maples' buds are getting plumpler, but have not yet broken out, shouldn't be long though.
Next is one of my three Flowering Quince growing in the front yard, no flowers yet, but the foilage is just starting to emerge. Can't wait, if we keep getting highs in the high 60's and low 70's it shouldn't be long.

Growing bamboo in containers.....

Paul from Boston sent me an e-mail regarding growing bamboo in pots. Yes, this can be done and if you live in a suburban garden like mine, its a good way to enjoy running varieties without having them in the ground. For those living on a small lot with neighbors nearby, I never recommend running bamboo unless (1) you have a rhizome barrier installed or (2) they are container grown. Unlike clumping bamboos, most running bamboos can be very aggresive and can be a source of neighbor-to-neighbor strife.

I have had success growing bamboo in a containers in a couple of different ways. My black bamboo (phylostachys nigra), pictured above, is growing with some gusto in a metal horse trough that I got for free from my neighbor. Depending upon the style of your garden, they can be attractive.
Using a drill bit made for metal work, I drilled several holes in the bottom, created an airgap by placing the trough on bricks. This is dome to prevent rhizomes from escaping the container and into the ground below.
I have also planted four runners in glazed ceramic pots (pictured is phylostachys bambusoides "All Gold"). If have read some literature recommending unglazed to let the soil breathe, but on the flip side unglazed during the summer tends to dry out the soil in the pot. Especially here in Sacramento, where we get several days of temps over 100f in the summer. That can mean a dead bamboo plant - real quick. All that said, I have had nothing but success using the glazed pot.

Like the trough, I have the glazed pots sitting on granite pavers I had left over from our front yard landscaping project last spring.

The other question from Paul is the size and height of container grown bamboo plants. My observation is that they do not get as big or robust as a running bamboo planted in the ground. That fact is true for most plant's size as the pot physically controls the development of the root growth.
Container grown bamboo put in a decorative container adds style and interest to any garden.
Try it out sometime....



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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can bamboo grow in extremely cold temperatures?

Fellow garden blogger Kate from the very popular and very well written "kate smudges in earth, paint and life" and I somehow got on the topic of bamboo. She commented on one of my latest posts, "It's doubtful there is a bamboo that I could grow in my garden," Kate, hails from Saskatchewan, Canada, rightfully so with extreme cold and snow, held this reasonable assumption that bamboo was out of the question. But, in all my bamboo geekdom, replied back "oh contraire" and offered some suggestions. Kate then replied back expressing interest. So knowing a fair amount of fellow bloggers and loyal readers hail from regions of the U.S. and Canada that have extereme winters, I thought why not share this post with all.

OK, the toughest family of clumping bamboos that I have in my collection are the Fargesias. Fargesias come from the the alpine conifer forests of west and southwest China. These are beautiful in delicate sense (in appearance only) and some can be found in mountain elevations as far up as 8,000 feet. On average, these bamboo can take -20 f per the respected American Bamboo Societies source list. The toughest of them all is Fargesia dracocepela (also known as Dragon's Head Bamboo) that lists a minimum temperature at -23 f. Pictured above is the closely related White Dragon Bamboo (Fargesia dracocephela "White Dragon") growing in my garden.

For running varieties, here are some tough cold tolerant varieties:

Phylostachys bissetti at - 15f (very wind tolerant as well)

Phylostachys aureosulcata "Spectabalis" at -10f (yelow culms with green stripes and red at nodes - I have this in my collection, very pretty.

There are a few more that are at -5f to -10f cold tolerance.

So, check out the American Bamboo Societies source list online and you'll be amazed. Photos of these bamboos can be found at
Many thanks to Kate for bring this question up, hope its useful or at least interesting.


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Piddling in the back yard today enjoying the garden...

Today was a great day, the highs today were in the mid 60's and I actually made some progress in the yard. My back yard is in the midst of being transformed from a mess to a place that I hope will be a great place to hang out and at the same time serve as a propagation area for my clumping bamboo plants.

The day started by clearing the northwestern shade dominated part of the yard.
With two large trees in my neigbors yard, I had some major leaves to clean up and I had plenty of fallen bamboo leaves and sheaths that had collected over the winter. I filled a 90 gallon green waste container and had more to put in.
Got the bamboo plants organized from the bamboo trek from the day before. Have a space that spans about 15 x 15 (pictured, bamboo even goes beyond the wooden planter box) that includes most of my plants for sale, that not inluding the 6' x 30' space on the side of the yard that also has more plants for sale and some for propagation.
I was amazed as I did my spring cleaning how many surprises you find, my Japanese Maples that I have left over from the days I used to sell them were actually showing buds that were ready to open, a vivid culm from my "Candy Stripe" Bamboo (pictured) showing some really cool colors and my "Alphonse Karr" Bamboo (also pictured), not anything rare, but showing really bright and vivid yellow coloring on its culms with vertical green striping, very striking presence in the garden.
Finally, I even got around to planting a Dogwood tree in the newly cleared space that I had gotten from a co-worker about 4 years ago. I was amazed that it wasn't root bound, only to find that ot had adapted to my neglect by rooting straight though the pot deeply into the ground. Plants, gotta love 'em.
Get to get out, make some real progress in the long tranformation of my backyard, and enjoy the sunlight. Good day in my book.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bamboo Trek, Part 2: The little mini-van that could......

Today for me was the first say of spring, albeit a bit early. Getting ready for my upcoming plant sale on March 22, I made my annual pilgremage to my bamboo wholesaler. My mighty green mini-van yet again rose to the occasion and servred as the delivery van for the bamboo trek.

First, the seats are taken out, then the back seat is folded into the bottom cavity. This turns the family van into an instant cargo van.
Drop a tarp in the back and I was ready to roll.
Left Rocklin this morning at 7:00 a.m. for my 9:00 a.m. appointment.

Went through my wish list and loaded an amazing 31 five gallons into the back of the van (previous record was 32 five gallon pots). No worries, bamboo clums are generally very pliable and do not sustain damage, unlike trees or other plants.
Got home and was time to unload.

I'm sure my neighbors were wondering what the heck I was doing, especially with the sheepish grin of satisfaction on my face.

When all was said and done I was pooped. But its all worth it. My growing and selling season has begun officially. With highs in the low 60's today and new bamboo plants to oggle over, I can't help but feel like spring is here.

Photos of the new bamboo additions are forthcoming, but I'm pooped, time for some shuteye.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Enjoying nature is so passe'?

A study was recently completed by researchers at the University of Illinois - Chicago which establishes a link between the rise in internet use and gaming to a decline in camping, fishing and other outdoor activities. Maybe a bit obvious, but sad in many respects. An article in the Houston Chronicle talks further about how enjoying nature has become virtual for many and is an obvious cause of the rise in childhood obesity. There is even some suggestion that those who do not enjoy nature and what it has to offer, may care less about the environment.

Even if nature is not accessible to all (you can safely say that not all people live near a national forrest nor have the means to visit one), I feel that gardening is another way to connect to nature. I have some issue with a comment made in the Houston Chronicle that yet agin stereotypes Gen X and Y'ers as not connected to nature. Yes, maybe true for some, but I find that consdition accross all generations. As a Gen X'er I think that connecting to nature and a love of gardening often times has more to do with upbringing and influences in our lives as we grow and mature.

For me, gardening is therapy, a time to get away from the barrage of modern life and a chance to have a hand in creating art in the garden. One can only hope that this trend is an anomaly.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008 Great garden blogging community blooming.... is becoming a great one stop resource to find your favorite "green thumb" bloggers. has well over 300 blogs listed and its growing every day.

Brain child of Stuart Robinson of Busselton, Western Australia, Stuart has created a vibrant community of garden bloggers with a format that is easy to use, gives users the ability to submit their blogs, "fave" their favorite blogs and communicate with their favorite bloggers.

If you haven't checked it out, its a "must stop" destination along your journey through the great world wide web.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Another garden to put on the "to see" list...

I've heard of the Quail Botanical Gardens because of its bamboo grove. Located in Encinitas, CA, its 20 miles north of San Diego. I hadn't visited the website until tonight and was surprised by how big it was and the amount of gardens it actually had (35 acres), from a tropical rain forrest to a succulent garden to a subtropical fruit garden.

We are planning a trip to Southern California this summer. If we happen to be near there, it may be worth a trip. Anyone been there before? If so, please share.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Long, cold winter days, dreaming of the perfect garden to visit......

Last year, a gentleman I do business with in the bamboo trade, was kind enough to give me a catalog (attached) for a really spacial place near Anduze, France (southern part of the country) called La Bambouseraie. La Bambouseraie is a bamboo park and has a long history stemming back to 1856. Considering that this park survived a few wars, including the two world wars, its amazing its still around.

Below is the history excerpt from the La Bambouseraie website:

"This property, which extends over 34 hectars (84 acres), is located 11 km south-east of Alès and 2 km north of Anduze. Geographically, it is a basin whose bottom is made of alluvial deposits from the Quaternary and whose sides are formed by limestone from various periods, and by granite. Not far from Prafrance, the river Gardon makes its way through a narrow canyon, of granite upstream (Roucan) and of limestone downstream (Anduze Rocks). Prafrance enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with an average rainfall of 1100 mm per year, but it can be very irregular, from torrential storms to drought. This is why the park has been equipped with a 5 km long network of permanent irrigation canals.

It is in this privileged setting that the “bambouseraie” of Prafrance was created by a native of the Cévennes region with a passion for botany : Eugène Mazel. Mazel had made a fortune in trading with spices he directly imported from Asia. This activity allowed him to have plants, practically unknown in Europe at that time, sent to him from these distant countries. In 1856, Mazel bought the property of Prafrance from Anne de Galière in order to realize his dream : create a bamboo plantation, a “bambouseraie”. The word “bambouseraie” did not exist at the time. Only many years later was this name given to Mazel’s plantation in Prafrance. The natural conditions of the site seem to be favourable for his project. The local microclimate apparently suits the bamboos. Only one thing is missing : water. Mazel then undertook gigantic works to bring the water harnessed upstream from the Gardon. Thanks to the three elements : water, soil and climate, the undertaking was a success. Mazel was able to acclimatize a number of bamboo species, and many other exotic plants as well. Fabulous plant collections were put together in Prafrance, which required the care of a great number of gardeners. This cost a lot of money and in 1890 Mazel was ruined.

He would never recover from having to leave his property to the Crédit Foncier de France. Prafrance was managed by this bank until the 2nd November 1902, when it was bought by Gaston Nègre. Nègre devoted all his energy in salvaging what remained of Mazel’s collections, trying not only to preserve them but also to enrich them. From 1948 on, Maurice Nègre, an agricultural engineer, carried on his father’s work. While fighting to restore the park, which had been heavily damaged by the floods of 1958, he died in an accident in 1960.

The “Bambouseraie” might never have recovered from this lost, had not Mrs Nègre decided to devote her life to continuing her husband’s work. She did it with courage and success. In 1977, her daughter Muriel and her son-in-law Yves Crouzet, an horticultural engineer, took over the management of the estate and the development of the park. Since 2004, Muriel is running the Bambouseraie."

Today, I couldn't help but think about how cool it would be to visit La Bambouseraie. Unfortunately the English version of their site has a lot of broken links, but the French version has a virtual tour you should check out.

Also, check out this video (click link), its in French, but you can see from it why this looks like a gardners dream:

La bambouseraie - kewego
La bambouseraie - kewego

Winter days, what garden pardise do you dream of visiting to escape it all?