Bamboo – Beauty And The Beast

I am hardly a bamboo expert. I did, however, stay in a Holiday Inn one night. 😉

Having said this, my experiences with Bamboo over a long period of years in my different roles as equal parts designer, installer and “maintainer” have led me to various conclusions and not simply about their single most primary reputation: their unruly nature for anyone who hosts them.

The fact is, Bamboo can present an uncommon beauty of its own. And well it is that this is the case, because the “unruly nature” is a stone cold fact.

From the incredible other-worldly effects of bamboo forests in China such as the picture below, to the unusual coloration and clumping style of the various species featured below, we can all see the merits of this tough, enduring, troublesome plant.


I wonder how many folks realize there is a Blue Bamboo?

blue bamboo(picture courtesy of Joseph Clemons)

Golden Bamboo has always been a plant I enjoyed planting – along with other more water-loving bamboos for swampy or bog-like conditions.


The above began here:


Dealing With Bamboos – Root Barriers

The various cultivars and native species of Bamboo have waxed and waned in popularity over the decades. For a while, the glories of Japanese and Chinese Gardens were imported to the British isles and the US, including every instance of elegant bamboo screening and beauty. Inevitably, certain problems almost invariably showed up – almost always involving problems with rampant root expansion or else the issues of bamboo getting “too happy”, with where it was planted. Acculturation to new geographies’ for some plants can often be a synonym for “Thriving beyond measure”. 😉

Bamboos are divided into two very distinct root patterns: “Running bamboo” and “Clumping Bamboo”. Running Bamboos have an impressively Imperialistic manner. They send out “rhizomes” – roots – which travel surprising distances and in water-hogging ways. In rainier climates, they can chew through a sidewalk or even cross under a street, simply because it can. Maintenance of these plants’ tendencies has historically involved “root pruning”. This implies digging down and find the expanding roots and rhizomes, then cutting them off. To say that this is ‘labor intensive’ is quite an understatement.

Clumping Bamboos have a far more manageable style. This varieties hold their roots closely without the rampant expansion of the “Running Bamboo”. Having said that, they also expand their very structure, growing at a reasonably rapid pace. All Bamboo – it seems – grow rather rapidly. In the end, true maintenance involving this plant can most easily be accomplished upon planting them.

Root Barriers

Modern technology has provided us with an excellent product for containing these gorgeous plants. Plastic root barriers are now readily available with which to contain the expansive qualities of the more aggressive types and which can reduce root pruning to “never”. Set around 24-36” below grade, during the planting process – or retroactively, of course – these plastic containment mechanisms act to prohibit expansion.


The limits, in terms of distances, around which these barriers can act are limitless, since the barriers themselves are segmented and easily attachable by hand. This can provide a truly wonderful scenario as we watch the expansion take place and halt at out predetermined dimensions.


The other truly marvelously efficient factor with barriers such as these are that many specialists in this product provide barriers which are also made completely from recycled plastic. As a Green Technology, this is a wonderful development. Efficient and Green both are a wonderful way to design and build are most gorgeous gardens.

It is hard to express enough appreciation for a well-conceived garden at any time, but some are more Heavenly than others.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.