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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:
(click on the images for a more detailed shot)

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.

This 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.

This Yellow Groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is very common in the North. The source of the common name is rather obvious. This species grows to about 40' in mature groves.

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.

Here is a variegated sasa that grows to about 10 feet. This plant is only 2 years old and started as a sickly looking single culm. It requires shade and really lightens up a dark area in a woods.

This 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.

Last but not least, Phyllostachys Nigra hale, the "Black bamboo". The culms start green and slowly turn to this beautiful ebony over about three years.

McGrath here again: Thanks Ric!
Listeners--if you're passionate about an unusual plant, call us up and share what you've learned about it; and if you got some pictures....

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



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