Hardy bamboo picks and pictures from a YBYG listener
Ace YBYG listener Ric Venzie wowed the radio audience (and McGrath) with his wonderful tales of bamboo growing in the North (New Joisey--the Garden State!) and especially his descriptions of hardy bamboos with a CLUMPING habit. RUNNING bamboos are the terribly invasive types; clumpers are much better behaved--and often highly ornamental as well.
THEN Ric blew us away again with a series of photos
of his most prized (and often VERY cool-looking) bamboos--shot just for
us! Here's Ric's photo gallery:
This is the big bamboo (Phyllostachys vivax springhill) I mentioned that will eventually reach 70'. I am in the picture for height comparison. I am 5'11". You do the math on the current height. One of the fascinating things is that a culm will reach its mature height in only 3 - 4 weeks. You can literally watch these puppies grow. You can also hear them growing. There is a protective sheath that covers each node on the culm, and they literally make popping noises as the shoot is growing. In a grove this size, the noise is constant. Besides being a real focal point of the garden, I particularly like this bamboo because so many people have told me that bamboo will not grow this big in New Jersey. Normally Vivax doesn't even grow this far north, but this is a special cultivar that was only found about 8 years ago up in Reigelsville, PA.
is a close up of the base of the culm of the tallest plant in the grove.
My paint splattered hand is there for size reference. The powdery white
at the knuckles in part of the normal plant coloration. The white streaks
are contributions from the birds who absolutely love to hang out in the
branches and actually provide all the fertilizer the plants require.
Here is another vivax. This one is aureocaulis. Note the delicate random
green striping. These culms are only about an inch in diameter, but in
two years they should be getting to be the same size as in the previous
picture. That should be rather striking, doncha think?
Here is Sasa Veitchii with its winter coloration. This bamboo only grows
to about 24 inches. The leaves fall off in spring and are replaced with
solid green leaves that hold their color until fall. This clump is growing
in high shade.
Arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) is by far the most common bamboo
in this area. This bamboo 'shoots' the entire growing season and is extremely
invasive. (Mike: This is probably the variety you have growing near your
compost piles.) It grows to about 18' in ideal conditions, which for this
species includes dark closets, basements, and caves. In full sun it will
produce a grove so thick even rabbits will have trouble getting through
it. Great for privacy screens.
is one of the well-behaved Fargesia clumping bamboos (f. nitida anseps).
This clump is about 6 years old and is just starting to show the weeping
characteristics that give it its common name, Fountain Bamboo. This particular
clump is being divided this spring (boy; is that going to leave a bare
space in the garden!) and pieces will be used to block an ugly fence that
is visible from the veranda of the famous Japanese House in Fairmount
Park in Philadelphia.
When I was on the show, I mentioned a Sasa that had leaves that grew up
to 24". Mine is not quite there yet, but it is close. When a new shoot
reaches its height, it sets a single leaf near the tip. For some reason,
these single leaves seem to always be catching a breeze, even when the
rest of the garden is still. Looks like a very dense golf course. Additional
leaves show up later in the summer.
McGrath here again: Thanks Ric!
For sources of plants and lots more info about growing bamboo in the US, check out this fine web site recommended by both Ric & McG: www.americanbamboo.org