Considering bamboo- input needed

pumpkin2010(5)August 26, 2010

Hi everybody,

I'm considering using bamboo as a fast-growing screen to block out some obnoxious neighbors. Thus, I'd love it to be 8' tall or more, but I also want to keep it to a relatively small footprint (about 3' out from the fenceline).

As a result, I've read advice to consider only clumping varieties, and found one that sounded good for this location - "Fargesia rufa". I just spoke to a local nursery however, and he only has a running variety "Yellow Groove" at the moment. It's $50 for a 5 gal pot and 7 feet tall. I'd LOVE to have a screen of that size like RIGHT NOW, but I don't want to get myself into a pickle either with a runner.

He stated that a clumping variety is not going to get as tall as I would like here in Zone 5. But he also implied that any running bamboo won't "run" as badly in our zone as it might in others. The planting location is also full sun and gets minimal water, though of course I can remedy the water situation if needed.

Thoughts? Input? Should I wait and try to find the clumping type? Would it be ok to try a runner? Are the runners easily contained just by the "shovel method"? Will my neighbors all hate me if it starts suckering in their yards? Guide me here... :)

Thanks!

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Before answering your questions, I want to make sure you know that your Zone is a potential problem: you are going to lose the leaves on your bamboo and perhaps the aboveground growth each winter...and there is some chance that the plants could die if the winter gets bad enough. Are you ok with that?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 12:16PM
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pumpkin2010(5)

I am aware of that - although the two varieties I've been pointed towards are both supposed to be cold hardy for our winters. One is "Yellow Groove" and one is "Sunset Glow". I'm hoping any die-off that occurs will be at least somewhat mitigated by the fast growth rate.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 1:04PM
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alan_l(6)

"Sunset Glow" is actually Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa', or Fargesia 'Rufa'. It's a clumper, but to reach 8' in height may take 5 years or more, and it will be at least 8' wide at that time -- maybe wider. There's a chance it would never reach that height either.

Are you planting near a building, evergreen conifers, other trees, a driveway? Anything that would provide some wind protection, and might keep that area a little bit warmer?

In general you should be able to control Yellow Groove rhizomes with a shovel ("rhizome pruning"), but you need to do it a couple of times every year. If you're on good terms with that neighbor, they probably won't mind a shoot or two from a stray rhizome. If you're not pruning, and they get dozens of shoots coming up, that will probably upset almost anybody.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:15PM
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pumpkin2010(5)

Ahhh well that is the problem, actually. We aren't on any terms at all with that neighbor because they are never around. Their kids, however, are ALWAYS around and ALWAYS unsupervised. Their trampoline is right next to our fence and not only has it resulted in serious fence damage, but it's a great way for them to easily climb over the fence as well as provides a full visual into our entire yard.
I'm looking for something columnar, tall, and with a smallish footprint to put in a row there and make the climbing-over behavior a little more difficult for them. I rarely see either of the parents around, and we've also been warned of this family and how much trouble they are, so I'm not particularly eager to involve them in anything.

On the flip side, however, they may not even notice bamboo shoots coming up and just mow right over them. Also, the area immediately on the other side of the fence(in their yard) is a gravel pit under the trampoline (perhaps not a hospitable environment for shoots?). Or perhaps I could maintain maybe a foot of space between the fence and the plants and just be careful to keep that area carefully pruned?

The planting area I have in mind is about 15 feet along the fence, and I'd give it maybe 2-3 feet of room out from the fence. It's full sun, with no real wind protection other than being against the side fence in the back corner of the yard. A young Greenspire Linden is probably 8-10' away from the fence as well.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:29PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

F. rufa is hardy to about -5F and Ph. aureosulcata (Yellow Groove) is hardy to about -10F. Below is a picture of winter damage to Yellow Groove in Zone 5. Those tan culms are dead, so the only new growth will be if something shoots from below ground. Yellow Groove does pretty well in Zone 6, but it will be somewhat dicier in Zone 5. I'm not trying to discourage you...just don't want you to be surprised.

Here is a link that might be useful: Y.G. topkill

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 5:53PM
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solus(9a)

As alan_l mentioned, the F. dracocephala 'Rufa' takes time to grow tall. It may not be suitable for your purpose. I have one that's about 4 years old and it's still about 3' tall! Also if I recall correctly, it's not an upright grower and may weep or be fountain like. I'm thinking of giving it to a friend who thinks it's a gem.

Your neighbor's kids sound pesky for sure - instead of bamboo, how about an electrified wrought-iron picket fence?

Joking, joking!

Seriously, you might wanna leave a note for the parents if they're trespassing and doing damage to your fence.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 8:48PM
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stevelau1911

I would definitely go with the yellow groove. I am 1 zone warmer than you and yellow groove went from 3 8ft culms to over 30 this year ranging from 7-11ft tall, but this year, it is not making any rhizomes for some unknown reason. It got no protection at all, and got through winter with almost no leaf burn here. Maybe it will have an off year next spring after such explosive growth this year.

Before you buy it, you might want to take a drive around your area and you might be able to locate some yellow groove plantings because it is very common and lots of people will have some that they are willing to share.

As far as control, all my phyllostachys seem to grow rhizomes within the first few inches that often surface so its not that hard to redirect their growth and control where culms emerge.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 1:27AM
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pumpkin2010(5)

GREAT info - thanks everyone.

I called another nursery (one in Fort Collins)and they have the Fargesia Rufa "Sunset Glow" as well as the Yellow Groove. The guy I spoke with also strongly favored the Yellow Groove for its height and cold-hardiness and directed me to a few live examples in Fort Collins where Yellow Groove is planted. He mentioned also that runners aren't prolific at all in our zone, and are easily contained with "30 minutes of attention once or twice a year". DH will be checking the plantings out on his lunch hour :)

I'm leaning towards trying one or two plants and keeping them about a foot away from our (sadly-non-electrified) fence to try to manage the rhizomes that have been mentioned will surface close to the parent. What do you all think of the "gravel pit" in the neighbors' yard? Do you think that will be any sort of mitigant to spreading shoots?

And...another question:
If we decided to use a barrier, just what exactly are we talking about? Planting the pot directly into the ground? Putting down deep edging (could the roots go under it)?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 10:37AM
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solus(9a)

Gravel pit is no deterrent at all; donÂt bet on it. I think the least back-backing way would be to dig a shallow trench  about 8-12" parallel to the fence so that if any rhizome trying to cross over to your neighborÂs yard you can just chop away. Also water only your side of the yard this would somewhat guide the direction of their growth.

If youÂre going the Rhizome Barrier way, check out the link below  it has quite comprehensive instructions for installing a rhizome barrier. ItÂs more back-breaking work tho. You might wanna try the open-sided barrier if you donÂt mind manually controlling your side of yard.

You can also plant the whole pot in the ground, but thatÂd limit their growth unless you donÂt mind digging them up for pruning once in a while. Bamboos are vigorous growers they get pot-bound fast.

BTW I just thought of another deterrent for pesky children-you know those water-scarecrow thing that can squirt water to scare aware pests? Think along that line =)

Here is a link that might be useful: Installing Rhizome Barrier

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:37PM
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pumpkin2010(5)

OK folks- we did it. We bought 2 Yellow Groove bamboos this weekend and planted them along the fence. We left 12 inches or so between the back edge of the plants and the fence, to monitor any growth moving towards the neighbors. The guy at the nursery also had only good things to say about them and reiterated that the runners aren't really an issue here and of course, that we'll probably experience die-back each winter.

We used no formal barriers in the ground, but we have some ridiculously hard clay soil, so we dug a deep trench between the two holes and backfilled it with amended soil. We're hoping growth will find it easier to move into the trench rather than fight the clay on the other 3 sides of each hole. And I did set up the soaker hose to water the front of the plants further out into the yard to encourage growth that direction, whereas the hose is watering the back of the plants right on top the root ball.

Who knows if any of this will work, but we're pretty excited to have found bamboo as a solution to our little problem. Thanks for everyone's input!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 10:21AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I hope you enjoy your bamboo, but I do have one observation: 12" is pretty close to the fence from a rhizome growth standpoint, a maintenance standpoint, and a mature appearance standpoint. While you will have slower growth in your Zone, during the summer months rhizomes can go several feet, so you will need to be vigilant. Also, when the plantings become more mature, they will be right up against the fence and you may find it harder to get in to do maintenance. Lastly, it may look crowded against the fence over time. If it were me, I'd plant them further from the fence....

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:20PM
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pumpkin2010(5)

Hmm... something to consider. We did already plant them, so moving them would be a bit of work, though not impossible.

From a fence maintenance standpoint, the neighbor has the "good" side so we'd have to be in his yard anyway to replace boards or panels. As for the mature size, I was planning to keep the footprint of these guys pretty narrow - could I just prune them to keep them about the same distance from the fence as they are now?

Also, the picture on the nursery tag shows a bamboo grove (?) where the lower sections have been stripped of the leaves, leaving a sort of tree-like shape. DH really likes this picture - is the shape simply a result of pruning off the leaves on the lower half?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:51PM
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alan_l(6)

As the plant matures, the larger culms will naturally have no branches (therefore leaves) on the lower portions.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 2:26PM
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pumpkin2010(5)

Fabulous! Thanks Alan.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 2:43PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Some species do have fewer branches on the lower parts as they mature, but it is not clear to me if that will be the case with your bamboo in your Zone. If this does not happen, you can always prune out the lower branches without harming the bamboo. One problem you may encounter is that you may not always get new culms in the right places. In my Zone it's not a problem as culms do not die seasonally, so I can prune out whatever I want without worrying about the appearance next year. You may be starting from scratch each year, so you may not have as much freedom in completely pruning out culms as you might like.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 9:37PM
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moonshinegrrl(6)

I am thinking of trying bamboo along our perimeter I am not sure right now the dimensions, I think a runner would be the only way we could afford it. I am at the other end of Tennessee, upper east near VA, I would also appreciate input. Also one side of the house is north so I would need some that likes total shade. I would appreciate any tips or tricks on keeping it under control. Thank you

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 12:13AM
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