Which bamboo and What to plant around it

fmogul(z6-7 NY)August 28, 2006

(Cross-posted to Japanese Gardens, Metro NY Gardens and Gardening in Shade)

My aging neighbor has mistaken me for a landscaping expert and enlisted me to overhaul her back patio. Picture a *very* shady backyard, behind a Brooklyn brownstone, underneath a canopy of old oaks and sycamores. Some filtered light gets through, but not much. She wants to hide her neighbor's chainlink fence, dumpster and concertina wire, on top of an embankment. Total height about 15-17'. The patio is surrounded on three sides by 2-3' deep beds, with concrete on one side and walls or other obstacles on the other.

I was thinking of using bamboo on one of those three sides as a screen, and installing a rhizome barrier so that it doesn't spread and take up all three. So, picture a well-contained rectangular plot that's 2-3' x 12-15'

Here are my questions:

1) I've been soliciting suggestions and have been getting advice for both clumping and running types. Seems like there are strong camps on each side. Anyone want to try to make a definitive case for one versus the other in my situtation?

2) The nominees so far: Semiarundaria fastuosa, Semiarundinaria 'okuboi,' Fargesia robusta, P. rubro, Ps. Japonica and I. latifolius. Anyone want to weigh in one of these or others not listed?

3) Can I plant anything in and around any of these? If there's a finite, contained space, and I were to try to plant, say, anything such as ferns, hostas, carex, or hakone grass -- will the culms grow around them, or just crowd them out of existence? Would I need to install barriers in front of the bamboo if I want some shade perennials, grasses or ground covers?

4) Is fall an okay time to plant bamboo in this area and microclimate? Or wait until spring. In realize the answer might depend on the specific type, but it also might be a qualified yes-for-all or no-for-all...

Many thanks,

Fred

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