Privacy along a short fence

drnukeFebruary 18, 2011

I have a 4 foot fence along the back of my back yard (North). On the East and West sides of the fence are two beautiful spruces. In between the spruces I have about 40' of fence to which I want to add more privacy. I have rolled all different solutions around in my head: arborvitae (get's too large and wide I want something narrow), holly (grows to slow and toxic to my dogs that eat everything), other shrubs (grow to slow and can't find something that looks attractive.

So now I am thinking that bamboo may be the solution. I love the look of bamboo, but I have always been scared to plant it because of all the horror stories you hear about it overrunning your property, etc. I want a narrow privacy hedge (depth of about 4 feet or so), so bamboo seems like it would be a good solution. I would also like something that gives me privacy year round (i.e. it doesn't drop all it's leaves and becomes "public" in the winter).

Do you have an suggestions of bamboo for my area? How do I prepare the site and where do I purchase the bamboo? I'm a complete noob when it comes to bamboo, so bear with me.

Thanks, folks!

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

The horror stories are a result of people who put in bamboo, don't maintain it, and then blame it on the bamboo 10 years later. You can control bamboo with a procedure called rhizome (root) pruning. However, it must be practiced once or twice a year if you want to keep things well-controlled.

For your situation, probably the best solutions are:

1) Plant clumping bamboo, like Fargesia nitida, which will not run and which should stay evergreen in your area. The downside is that you will need to buy a fair number of plants because clumpers only get a little bit bigger in diameter each year, and won't be sending out satellite plants that will fill in gaps.

2) Plant running bamboo, like Phyllostachys aureosulcata (commonly known as Yellow Groove), and install bamboo barrier in a long oval pattern to contain the rhizomes. Bamboo barrier is a hard, thick, specialty plastic that comes in rolls and is installed in the ground about 24" deep to block rhizomes growing into unwanted areas. Below is a link that shows what this looks like, and provides some other good advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bamboo control

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 1:28PM
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leahcate(So. Ca.)

This could have been MY post! I'll bet drnuke would like to know...:>)... how wide is the clumping variety, and he also might like to know... :>)... if putting the wider, running type in pots is an easier( than twice a year pruning) option?
As I walk the nursery hoping to find a pretty privacy shrub for my 4'deep border, I often spy something lovely over there! Oh shucks,it's always the same...bamboo. drnuke and I...:>)...thank you for more info!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:47PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

There are many clumping varieties, and they are of various sizes when they get mature. Basically you can buy a clumping bamboo that may be just a foot high, but ultimately top out at 8', or you can get another species of clumper that tops out at 20'. So you have two choices to make at the start: 1) How high do I want it ultimately to be?, and 2) How big do I want it to be right now? (bearing in mind that the bigger it is, the more expensive it will be). If you can wait 5 years for a small bamboo to size up, that's one thing; if you need instant privacy with good size plants, you have to be ready to shell out more money.

In addition, you two posters live in substantially different Zones, so some clumpers that will work well in one may not work well in the other. For Zone 7 I'd recommend some of the Fargesia species, and for Southern Cal I'd recommend some of the Bambusa species. Below is a link to a web site where you can look at photos to get an idea of the size and choices within these species.

Here is a link that might be useful: BambooWeb

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 8:30PM
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leahcate(So. Ca.)

Thanks so much for the info and web site, kudzu. And hey! About that name....I'm from the south originally, and think of your name as a southern 'thang', so what's up? (and how many times have you been asked that on here?!) I ask about putting in pots( the 8'footers) wondering if they are so aggressive they'd soon bust through and into the soil?
Ficus scares me for this same reason.
In another direction entirely: Bamboo seems best in a tropical or Asian landscape, but can it be effective, and not out of place in more traditional garden settings?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:43PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Ok...pots. Bamboo do fine in pots, but they won't grow as big or as fast as if they are in the ground. They are also more vulnerable to cold in pots, which is not an issue for you so much as the OP. If you are using pots, you will also have to re-pot into a bigger container every several years as the root system enlarges. If they are clumpers, you don't have to worry about them being too aggressive, and if they are runners they're not going to make some overnight escape! Any roots that make it out of the pot will be quite obvious. I suggest you take the urban myths about bamboo going on a rampage with a grain of salt. If it was as aggressive as many people claim, there would be no other vegetation on earth.

Lastly, bamboo fits in fine anywhere it can be grown, as far as I'm concerned. I've got about 60 varieties planted in the ground in my 1-acre Pacific NW lot, and I'm happy with the look.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 2:29AM
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leahcate(So. Ca.)

Thanks again for all the information. I will look into this more thoroughly for what's available here. And I just learned something new: kudzu is not restricted to the south as I'd always thought. When my parents visited once they remarked that kudzu would swallow the world here in no-frost So.Ca. :>O

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:15AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Yes, you should worry more about kudzu than bamboo!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Bamatufa(7 - Trussville, AL)

I have a uncle who lives on a farm and gave me a tour of his bamboo patch he started for fun a few years ago and he has runners thirty feet from the main patch he has to constantly contain. I believe alot of it depends on the growing conditions.When I mentioned I had been interested in bamboo for my backyard but was concerned about it getting away into my neighbors yard (I live in a neighborhood) my uncle said that would be my neighbor's problem! Glad my uncle is not my next door neighbor!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 10:21PM
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If it were me. I would plant the clumping type along the fence as long as it gets an ok amount of shade. I have a couple Fargesia Rufa, Green Panda's that do great here in Salt Lake Valley. We get plenty of snow and temps down to 0 in the winter but it has so far stayed green. My running bamboo has not stayed green and needs more sun.

As far as I know the clumping types don't have as fast of a growth rate as the runners. But that doesn't mean they grow slow. So if you want more privacy soon you may look into buying bigger plants like Kudzu said. I would guess 10 plants for a 40 foot stretch.

I am new at bamboo though, I am only one season in. I planted the clumping bamboo in May 10' and the runners in June 10'.

I look forward to more hands on experience (that is sure to come) to share.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 11:52AM
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