For screening or privacy, clumping bamboo has a great deal to offer urban gardeners
Words: Carrol Baker
Bamboo, which is actually a grass, is a plant with rapid growth. This means it’s an ideal privacy screen for suburban backyards. For situations where you need an “instant” stylish screen of green, use semi-matured plants. Bamboo as smaller plants will take longer to get established even though they grow faster than other screening plants.
Bamboo may seem a little more expensive than other plants and that’s because it is.
Bamboo plants cost more to buy because bamboo isn’t easy to propagate in large numbers. But, ultimately, the price tag of this eco-friendly beauty is worth it.
When choosing bamboo for your outdoor living areas, it’s a good idea to opt for a non-invasive, clumping variety of bamboo. This type of bamboo won’t spread rapidly; instead it tends to stay together in clumps. With clumping bamboo the culm and the rhizome are one: the rhizome emerges as a culm close to the parent bamboo. If you want to use running varieties of bamboo, they’ll need to be grown in planters or they’ll overtake your yard and your neighbour’s. Some clumping varieties you could try include:
•Gracilis: One of the neatest-growing of all types of bamboo. A very attractive specimen with vertical upright culms. It’s very versatile, is ideal for a small garden, and can handle cool winters and hot summers.
•Alphonse Karr: A striking hedging bamboo. Pinkish shoots become green-striped with yellow culms. This variety is extremely hardy and easy to grow. Will grow to four metres in southern states and up to seven metres in the tropics.
•Ghost bamboo: A magnificent bamboo specimen named after its (ghostly) white-powdered culms when it is young. A fast and easy-to-grow bamboo, especially in cooler climates.
•Himalayan weeping bamboo: A beautiful soft foliage and shade-loving bamboo that thrives in cooler climates. It needs afternoon sun and good dappled light and looks fabulous all year round.
•Oldhamii: A good all-rounder, this compact and upright bamboo is very versatile. It features dark emerald leaves and straight culms and grows fairly rapidly.
If using a container, use high-quality potting mix that holds moisture and plant the bamboo in a deep and wide pot. Water frequently and don’t let the soil dry out. All bamboo needs frequent watering until it’s established. Bamboo needs lots of care during its first summer, which means plenty of water. During the second summer, it still needs a reasonable amount of water but, after that, not much water at all.
The best time to plant your bamboo is in early spring so you’re making the most of the optimum growing season. There are more than 1500 varieties of this grass worldwide. With so many different varieties of bamboo it seems we really are spoilt for choice. For more information on which varieties will grow best in your garden, contact your local nursery or bamboo specialist.
1 Clumping bamboo can be creatively used to add privacy and interest. Garden design by Mark Perriman Landscapes.
2. Bamboo culms come in a variety of colours, from gold and green to black. Photo courtesy of Red Cloud Bamboo.