Bamboo in mixed garden bed?

BambusaJune 28, 2013

Hi all

Apologies if this has been asked before.

I am trying to create a bamboo screen/hedge by planting Textilis Gracilis in a narrow garden bed atop a retaining wall I have in my back yard. I plan on planting them at about a meter apart and hope that they will grow up to prevent my neighbours (2nd floor window) from looking down into my yard. The garden bed is about 25cm across by 1m deep. Question is can I also plant some other plants in the same bed? I was thinking about some Acacia Cognata as a dropping ground cover some of the side of the retaining wall. Will this work? Or does the bamboo need all of the garden bed to itself?

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

There's no harm in trying, but the ground cover may get crowded out over time. I am concerned about the narrowness of your bed and whether this will provide enough room for the bamboo as it gets bigger, though. Is this a raised bed with sides or what?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 11:48AM
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Please see the photo. I currently have some Australian grasses in a rock garden there. But ill remove them once I plant the bamboo. The wall part of the retaining wall is around 30cm thick. What do you think? I assume that because the bed is somewhat narrow the bamboo won't grow to its full height.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 3:47AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I've never tried to grow bamboo in such a narrow space, so I can't say for sure what will happen with the height. Each year the root ball will get a little bigger in diameter until it comes up against the front and back walls. At that time, the root ball may start to expand sideways and growth may continue to be ok. However, even if the bamboo do hit full height, just be aware that, unless you start with rather tall plants, it will be a number of years before you get screening of a neighbor's second story windows. The other issue is that any bamboo clumps that die may be quite difficult to remove as the root ball will be locked in place after it expands to the front and back walls of the planter. Since the rhizomes are very tough and woody, removal will be a real challenge as you won't be able to pry the root ball out. Cutting with power tools, such as a Sawzall, and then prying the pieces out, may be your only recourse.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but just giving you some advance knowledge.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Thanks for your advice.
I think I'll continue with the project. Various other sites suggest that the bamboo will grow ok... But perhaps not as quickly or as high as might have been otherwise. I'll be sure to give them plenty of water and fertiliser during spring / summer to get the most out of them.
However my major concern was the other plants in the same bed. Will they tend to suck up the nutrients before the bamboo can use it? Or is this not really a problem?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:47AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Not a problem...other plants will not out-compete bamboo in my experience.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 1:06PM
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In my opinion I hope your neighbor likes the bamboo cause I'm afraid he's gonna have more of it than you. It will be really restricted in that small amount of space and probably will not do well. It will not get very tall in that amount of space but if allowed to grow on the other side of the fence you might get your screening from there. Plus I agree with Kudzu9 it will be extremely hard to remove if you need to.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 8:54PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

You raise an interesting point. When I first looked at the photo, I assumed that it was a sort of planter with concrete at both front and back. After looking at it again, I am wondering if that is just dirt on the back side continuing into the neighbors yard. If so, while planting clumping bamboo will prevent an invasion of the neighbor's yard, it will not prevent the bamboo from sending up shoots on the other side of the fence. If you are right, the good news is that the bamboo may fare better than I thought, and the bad news is that it may create a neighbor problem.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:18PM
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I like your garden space and I like your species selection for that space. Gracillis is a tight clumper, so for tight spaces it's perfect. It does tip a little at the top, but I don't see a problem there. As far as it growing on the other side of the fence, your neighbor should thank you for that, or just ask them if you can come over there and dig out the new roots each year (for transplant) or at least let you come over and kill the young shoots (boo hoo).
Now as for companion planting- I grow a companion plant with every bamboo I have. I have soybeans growing with wamin (buddha belly). I have tomatoes growing with guadua. I have donkey ear kalanchoes growing with my membrenacea, dolichoclada, asian lemon and others. I have basil growing with lots of bamboos.
But, my most predominant companion plant is Callissia Repens 'turtle vine'. In my opionion and experience thus far 'turtle vine' is the best. It doesn't have much roots, so no competition. It becomes a living mulch, helping to retain moisture for the bamboo. It grows faster than bamboo (I know bambooist will scoff at that, because bamboo is reported to be the fasting growing vascular plant on earth, but that is only true during it's shooting stage).
I began with a small plant of callisia repens and within one year it multiplied at least 200 times. It drapes over the edge to the ground and beyond, so it would look beautiful it that spot. It's the easiest plant that I know of to propagate. Although it is invasive, it only spreads above ground. It has tiny tap roots, but it spreads via it's stolons above ground so removal is very very easy. It is a soft vine, so it's easy to remove barehanded and if it grows on the ground it won't trip you up.
Here's the best part of growing 'turtle vine' with bamboo. Ants hate turtle vine. One issue when growing bamboo is ants. They love it. Down here we have an issue with carpenter and fire ants with bamboo. They don't affect the bamboo's growth (necessarily), but ants will surely set up shop when there is a bamboo clump to live under.
Multiplex bamboo species are prone to a black sooty mold that grows thick at each node. The mold grows when ants grow aphids, by herding them onto the nodes. The aphids eat the mold, and the ants eat the aphids excrement (honey dew). This problem also occurs, although less often, in other species of bamboo as well including textillis. 'Turtle Vine' somehow eliminates the ants, preventing the aphids and the mold. 'Turtle Vine' is usually grown as a hanging house plant, but it has so much more to offer than it's beauty.

I don't know how high you need your bamboo to grow, but usually twelve feet is enough for privacy, considering that's twice the height of your fence. Fernleaf is a little smaller than gracillis and it clumps tightly as well.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 5:31PM
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Hi everyone

Thanks so much for the feedback.

Please refer to the photos from RedCloudBamboo. Some of photos show BTG growing sucessfully (and big!) in quite narrow garden beds. This is what inspired me to do what I'm doing.

Kudzu9, you are right about the neighbour's yard being directly behind the fence (level with mine etc). However, I'd probably put in a root guard to keep it from causing problems. Hopefully additional fertilizer will ensure that it grows tall in its confined space.

Jonjfarr, the idea of the "turtel vine" sounds great. However I fear I'm in the wrong zone (there are quite a few frosts per winter here). I'm inspired by your other companion plants, so at least I know that that *should* work.

Thanks again

Here is a link that might be useful: Bambusa textilis gracilis - gallery

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 1:56AM
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If you can grow gracillis, you can grow turtle vine.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Here's a video of what your neighbor will be dealing with in two or three years. Not an attractive arrangement.

Here is a link that might be useful: Clumper Against a Fence

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 11:51PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Actually, I kind of like it...

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 3:23AM
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I agree with Kudzu...I like it. I don't think it is Oldhamii though, but a bambusa for sure.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 9:48PM
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In that video, I saw a bamboo with zig-zag culms at the lower nodes, ivory bands above and below each node, small leaves, open clumper, long branches, three inches thick, and well over 40 feet tall. In my non expert opinion, and I hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings with this identification, but that is Ventricosa 'clone x'. I grow that species. It's a very prolific shooter.
Don't grow that one in that spot. I don't think that video was a good example of how gracillis will grow, being a tight clumper and a max height much shorter than the clone x in the video. How does your neighbor feel about bamboo? If they like it, you could have no problems.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 11:32PM
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