Bamboo + the Other Big Orange Pot

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It is not without cause that some of us are terrified of planting bamboo in our gardens.  And while I don’t know tons about growing it, I feel that I do know a few things. (Does the word “bamboozled” come to mind?)

Bamboo seems a lot like a pushy relative, the sort who makes demands and has boundary issues that cannot possibly be tolerated. Then come endless conflicts, mediations, irreparable falling-outs and sometimes divorces.

Bamboo can certainly be like that, but knowledge is power.

bamboo closeup

And bamboo plants are beautiful, which relatives may or may not be.

bamboo bedWe have grown golden bamboo (divided from friends’ gardens) and a timber bamboo (Phyllostachys iridescens) together in a round island bed for about four happy years now.

The kind and brilliant gardeners at Dancing Oaks Nursery taught me that the trick with bamboo is a Good Defense, established in advance, in the form of a shovel-deep trench dug around the outside of the bed and filled with sand. The bamboo shoots have to pass through this moat to escape, and that is where we nail them.  A couple of times during the summer growing season we march around the bed, sharp shovel in hand, and heartlessly chop into the sand, nipping off any escapees before they can travel under the greenhouse or into the neighbor’s pasture or south to maybe California.

bamboo shoot

Right now all the bamboo is growing. New canes come up looking dangerous, even menacing, and I always think something like, “Will the dikes hold?!”

bamboo shoot2There is a  definite Dr. Suess element too…

shovel cuts bamboo shootsMax directs the shovel defense system.

So while the pushy bamboo WILL send side shoots zipping horizontally, the sand trench makes it possible to cut them off from above-ground with guillotine precision. (They never make efforts to plunge excessively deep since there are no real obstacles, from their point of view.)

Our backup moat, as it were, is the grass– (I hesitate to call it a lawn, but maybe lawn is better since there is so little grass in it. Mostly it is daisies and moss and clover and Self-heal: Prunella vulgaris.  Sometimes I find four-leaf clovers growing in it, and I press them in books, and when I come across them years later it feels pleasing and fortuitous. Did you know that clover seed used to be added intentionally to lawn seed mixes? It’s not so bad…)

So, we mow around the bamboo too, like a belt and suspenders system of control.

One time I did find a runaway shoot sprouting IN the grass. I dug it back to the bed and whacked it, which set an example for the other shoots.  And if it all gets out of control and comes up everywhere I will institute Plan B which is to move to France where the sunflowers grow.

black-eyed-susan vine & bamboo to climb

Now, in a deft turn of discussion, I will take us back to the Second Big Orange Pot, which is over by the greenhouse adding Interest to the bed there. (If you wonder about the First Big Orange Pot see this other sparkling post.) And I harvested a cane of bamboo from the Bamboo Bed to use in this pot.

Now THAT, my dears, is the other beauty of HAVING a bamboo bed. It is an incomparable resource for the gardener. And I just look forward to the day when I have a stack of bamboo poles, ready to use for building any damn thing I want at any time.

So in the Second Big Orange Pot I used a single piece of bamboo and left parts of the little limbs on it but whisked off all leaves so that the overall piece had short steps going up it. My Garden Muse and I calculated that this would facilitate the climb-age of the Black-Eyed-Susan-Vine (Thunbergia) as it ornamented the Interesting bamboo in the Interesting pot. (I like having a Garden Muse because I can blame bad ideas on her, like she’s my evil twin Skippy.)

vine with acrophobia

Here you see the susans as they tentatively proceed skyward, clinging to one another in fear, working, as they are, with no net.  (Honestly this vine has some serious issues with heights.  Last year I grew them in about three places and each time they escaped the trellis and crawled pathetically along the ground, maybe needing a shot of whiskey in order to just do the job. But in the Second Big Orange Pot they start out a couple feet off the ground so the escape sideways idea was thwarted ha ha.)

cobaea on bamboo trellis

Here is a cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) growing on a bamboo trellis behind a moss rose. I BOUGHT the collapsible trellis because if I had cut enough bamboo from my young bed to build it myself, well the bed would be just short sticks. (This is my first year growing the  cup and saucer vine, and so far it is just snaking around, trying to grab onto the house siding when I’m not looking. Where is the lushly covered trellis awash in bloom? Maybe later.)

Tillie in the bambooFor a while today Tillie was missing.

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About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, bamboo, Tillie and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Bamboo + the Other Big Orange Pot

  1. Grace says:

    Your writing is so entertaining, Linnie. Isn’t Dancing Oaks a fun nursery? I like the bamboo corral but perhaps you should find a similar way to corral Tillie. I’ve found that Cup & Saucer doesn’t bloom until, like mid August or so. Worth the wait, though. Have a great weekend.

    • linniew says:

      I don’t get out to Dancing Oaks nursery often, like maybe every two years, but we spend hours and bring our lunch. They have a wonderful table and chairs in a vine covered garden where we have our beer or wine and food and then we shop some more for plants. Pretty much heaven. I always get some rare plant or two there, most recently something called Flame Nasturtium, a perennial vine– is that one you grow Grace? Hoping I don’t kill it.

      There’s no controlling Tillie.

  2. An alternative is to plant them in pots – rather like containerising Mint though I do like your corral. Better still is the way you make Bamboo work for you rather than allowing it to thinks it’s just an ornamemtnal.Did Max retrieve Tillie?

    • linniew says:

      I’ve seen potted bamboo that grew over the edge and down the side and escaped. (Kind of makes you wonder WHERE bamboo wants to go anyway.)

      Tillie always emerges from hiding when she gets hungry.

  3. Alberto says:

    I keep bamboos on probation: they’re in a plastic pot after they broke and escaped from a terracotta pot. Another good way to grow bamboos is to grow them in a faraway relative’s garden: you have plenty of canes whenever you need them and you can even blame this relative of yours for is careless about bamboos.
    What about your Thunbergia suffering from vertigo? Keep us posted.

    But the real point of my comment is: who the hell is Tillie?

    • linniew says:

      I have even heard of bamboo breaking an underground concrete circle. (I think it’s strength might someday be used as an energy source, like wind power…) So, we could have the pushy relatives also be the sacrificial bamboo forest growers– I like it. And yes Alberto I may have to medicate the Thunbergia. As for Tillie, we found her in this 150 year-old house when we moved here long ago. There were also bats living in the attic and an occasional ghost. (You can get used to ANYTHING.)

      • Alberto says:

        I only found dust and rust and debts in my 110 y.o. house… maybe I should have waited longer. So Tillie is the factotum: observer, ghost, is she the muse too?

        • linniew says:

          Alberto: What makes you think I don’t have dust and rust and debts? Now regarding Tillie: she could NEVER function as a garden muse, she just doesn’t have the right outlook. And who hires ghosts? (Factotum makes me think of some kind of stacked up carving involving file folders.)

  4. Sheila Read says:

    I admire your courage in growing bamboo. I still have PTSD from an ongoing war with its relative, Japanese knotweed, at the cottage in Maine. I must get a Garden Muse, too. At the moment, I don’t have anything to blame on her, but I’m sure I will by mid-July when the garden is a baked-out wreck. I hesitate to blame mama Nature.

    • linniew says:

      The psychological damage that plants can do is staggering. And yes Sheila you totally need a Garden Muse for every bad outdoor idea– it would be at least as useful as a trowel.

  5. Holley says:

    Years ago, my father planted bamboo, not realizing – and now it’s taking over his entire place! I have no idea how to get rid of it, either. Ask Tillie if my dad’s in there!

    • linniew says:

      Oh Holley, I’m afraid Tillie is never particularly forthcoming or helpful. If I hear anything from your dad though I will let you know immediately. Who knew gardening could be so dangerous…

  6. Fantastic final picture.

    Being able to nip out to cut bamboo whenever I need a short cane to support a plant is one of my greatest prides and pleasures. I’m also chuffed because, this week, I bent fresh bamboo canes over a each other to protect small plants from cats. They look as good as any protection can – and work!

    • linniew says:

      I expect the cat-thwarting bamboo structures are adorable, like little summer houses. Great that you too have a bamboo factory in your garden Esther. And thanks for teaching me the British word “chuffed,” I like it a lot and will be using it to bewilder my local friends and Mr. O.

  7. p3chandan says:

    You are right about a lot of people are apprehensive abt growing bamboo in the garden just like me. They can be so out of control. But the tip you gave regarding the sand moat is so brilliant! You know those menacing looking dykes can be eaten…at least the newly formed ones – nutritious bamboo shoots or maybe the type you grow is unedible? Anyway the trellis made of bamboo sticks is lovely, a good idea!

    • linniew says:

      I don’t know if my bamboo shoots are edible or not. Perhaps a Bamboo Diet would keep the plants controlled. Or maybe I will need a pet panda. You see there are lots of choices, no need to fear bamboo…(I just keep telling myself that in the night, when think I hear the canes brushing against the upstairs windows of my house.)

  8. andrea says:

    your post is really fascinating, not necessarily on the plants but the writing style. I love it. My friend ONE of onenezz.blogspot.com is nominated for the LOL category in her country, Malaysia, i think yours should be in the hall of fame. hahaha! I love the idea of having a moat but they might still grow to California if the rhizome is really big. Thanks for the pick i was able to come and see your amusing and informative posts.

  9. I love seeing positive posts about gardeners growing bamboo! It’s not a plant that you put in to the ground and forget (even if you have the plastic “rhizome barrier” installed), and with a little bit of effort each year you can pretty easily keep it in check.

    Incidentally you don’t even need to have a trench — you can just “rhizome prune” with a sharp shovel or spade along the control line.

    I’ve got dozens of posts on growing and containing my garden’s bamboos over at my blog if you’re interested.

    • linniew says:

      Welcome Alan! Yes the sharp shovel is the issue but the sand makes it cinchy to do, and thorough. And Max very much enjoys digging in it. (I must get Max a sandbox for his birthday…)

  10. Excellent! What a great way to control bamboo and yet enjoy it. Should I ever decide to grow bamboo, I would have a plan.

  11. You know bamboo does come in clumping varieties but I think that would take all the fun out of it for you. It is important to let your plants know who has the upper hand. I think the bamboo support in the pot might take root–that would be funny.

  12. b-a-g says:

    I think we can conclude that bamboo has many uses, it can be grown in one’s garden if kept under control … but Tillie disapproves.

  13. Cathy says:

    Linnie, you are too funny! I have to say, I share your reticence with bamboo! I have a hard enough time keeping mint under control LOL. I am always delighted when I see a new post under your by-line.

    • linniew says:

      Just yesterday I was ripping out the mint that is crowding the meadowsweet in a border. We practically need a security guard to wander the garden with pruners and a shovel.

      • Cathy says:

        The only thing worse than mint here is lemon balm. (Mint’s black sheep cousin.) We got one of those spade shovels and I have been having total fun digging it up and planting it outside the fence where it can compete with the milk thistles and loosestrife. Get a spade shovel. It’s cheaper than hiring someone and you can easily get rid of some serious aggression (and belly fat, if you work at it).

  14. linniew says:

    Lemon balm is my arch enemy. It comes up EVERYWHERE, worse than mint which just spreads underground. And yes, the shovel gets it.

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