Tuesday, March 19, 2013

U.G.L.Y.

Bamboo lovers I apologize. I apologize for what I’m about to say, and I apologize that I've let it get this bad.

The Sasa palmata has to go.

It’s UGLY…

It wasn’t always this way. Back in 2011 it looked fabulous…

But it kept flopping over, taking up more and more of the patio. Last summer when I couldn’t take it anymore we tied it back, exposing the ugly bits.

I compensated by putting lots of tall containers/plants in front of it and willed it to go away. But now, without those containers I’m exposed once again to the full power of ugly and I want it to just go away, all the way away. If it only were that easy right? I can’t even imagine how Andrew is going to respond when I say “wouldn’t you like to spend your weekend digging bamboo out of a stock tank”…

So I figure if I've got a plan and I can convince him how good it will look then I’ll stand a better chance of getting his buy-in. This is where you all come in…what should replace it? The other two tanks have better looking bamboo (yes Alan, I do need to fertilize it)…

But I don’t really think I want to go that route here. What do YOU recommend? In the high summer this area gets direct sunlight until about 2 pm, and then it’s shady for the rest of the day. I’d like something that is relatively fast growing and evergreen. Whatever is growing here does need to act as a screening device as there is an boring wooden fence behind it (not ours) that's about 6ft tall, then a couple feet of open space (where you can look right into the neighbors back porch and family room windows), then laurel (which is also not ours). The only idea I've come up with so far is Ceanothus 'Dark Star', I like how the dark leaves would recede, and other then when it's in full glorious bloom, it would kind of disappear and just provide a neutral background for the plants and containers on the patio.

Of course if you want to council me to keep the bamboo I’ll need to hear a method for rehabbing it. Please help, I can't wait to hear your ideas...

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

46 comments:

  1. Maybe just cut it back to the ground and let it grow back? This kind of bamboo usually responds well to that kind of pruning.

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    1. Gerhard (below) agrees with you. How long do you think it would take for it to look decent again? At least a year? Longer? Not sure I have that kind of patience...

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  2. What about a serious thinning out , Poor Andrew, poor Philip ! These awful jobs! I was thinking the same about my plastic potted Bamboo!

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    1. I actually started thinning it out right after I took these pictures, thinking that would help. Not so much.

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  3. Molly LittlejohnMarch 19, 2013

    I can not wait to here what your replies are to this post. I have the same conditions and need something to give me privacy from neighbors and I've been reluctant to use bamboo but I was so close to putting it in last spring.

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    1. I'm not at all regretting the regular bamboo (such a great botanical term!) with strong culms/canes...they are great. This one is much more like grass and floppy.

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  4. I agree with Triffid Nation. Cut it way back. The new culms will have leaves all the way to the ground, and you'll have your lush green screen back.

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    1. How long do you think it will take for it to look good (full) again?

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    2. Cut it down now (I agree) and fertilize a bit -- it should start shooting very soon and will leaf out pretty quickly... maybe a month?

      The other ones just need some thinning of the older culms and some fertilizer. Or maybe they need to have some of the plant (including rhizomes) removed because they're too rootbound. If it were me I'd try some thinning and fertilizer first. :)

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    3. Sasa palmata shoots in mid-spring, if I remember correctly, so if you cut it down now (and gave it a good dose of fertilizer at the same time), you should have new shoots very soon. It's worth a try, in my opinion. If you don't get the look you want, you can still remove it in early summer.

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    4. Thanks guys! Yes Alan exactly that is on my must do list (cut out/fertilize for the other bamboos), I also plan to add some nice compost on top...a cheater way of making me feel like I'm helping them be less root-bound.

      Gerhard...I do like the idea of trying it and if it doesn't snap too then getting rid of it. We'll see...

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  5. If you have a hedge trimmer nearby, it'll make short work of cutting it to the ground. Throw on a little lawn fertilizer and watch your pretty bamboo screen reappear. If you'd still like to get rid of it, save Andrew's back by advertising on Craigslist. Lovely picture with the caption, free bamboo, you dig. Maybe you could put wheels on the bottom of the stock tank, attach it to your car and drag it to the plant exchange. Provide shovels and plastic pots. It's a party waiting to happen!

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    1. No hedge trimmer...but the cutting part doesn't bother me.

      Craigslist...not so much but I love the idea of wheels on the stock tank...look out!

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  6. I like the idea of a Bamboo digging party. LOL If it were mine I'd probably cut it all the way back as was recommended, put it someplace out of sight to regrow, buy a new stock tank, plant with Hibiscus acetosella or the purple leaved Ricinus for a couple seasons. They seem to grow at light speed and would very quickly provide the screening you are looking for.

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    1. How exactly would yo move a several hundred pound stock tank out of the way? Just wondering...

      I do love the idea of purple leaved Ricinus though. Not evergreen but a nice temporary solution!

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  7. These are the times when I get really happy, because I have an excuse to try something new that I didn't have room for before. This year I'm going nuts pulling out overgrown shrubs and putting up welded wire mesh trellises against my boring wooden fence. It gives me a chance to grow a bunch of vines that were on my wish list, which for me includes jasmine (evergreen except in the coldest winters), hops (die back each year), and arctic kiwi (not evergreen) for the shady corner. I'm sure there are some cool trellises and awesome evergreen vines lurking on your wish list, too...

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    1. You read my mind! I was thinking about a trellis and vine too...most excellent idea!!!

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  8. I actually like your Ceonothus idea...would be a nice contrast too all the other greens back there. Also, the smaller leaves will definitely make the Tetrapanax seem ever more dramatic...I actually think that particular bamboo sort of lessened the Tetrapanax's impact.

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    1. Good point about the Tetrapanax, and the Gunnera is right there next to it too!

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  9. Oh, yes! Ceanothus 'Dark Star' gets my vote! If only I had room for one in my yard! I have the Fross/Wilken book from the library now, scouring the pages for smaller varieties...

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    1. And just imagine when it's in bloom...POW! Amazing.

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    2. Another good espallier would be Garrya James Roof. Think how stunning those long tassels would look displayed across the dark leathery leaves?

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    3. You're killing me!!! I'd love to have a Garrya, I was concerned it wouldn't like life in a container though...

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  10. A nice grouping of sabal minor or some schefflera or maybe aucuba japonica?

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    1. Branden you're killing me!!! How I would love to get a hold of a few schefflera to fill up that tank! Any suggestions on finding ones of size? The palms are an interesting idea too...

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    2. Unfortunately im not quite sure where to find Scheffleras either other than maybe some lucky finds at local nurseries. I think the palms would add a great tropical feel to the patio with their large shrubby fan shaped fronds :) i also was thinking, how about a grouping of a nice large fountain grass? It would give you a whole new texture effect and the seed heads in fall would be amazing at eye level! just a thought :)

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    3. Lucky finds indeed, can you believe I didn't buy one once when it presented itself to me at Portland Nursery? What was I thinking.

      I do like the idea of the texture the grass would provide, a nice contrast to the big leaves of the gunnera and tetrapanax nearby...

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    4. NAy!
      I picked up three(!) Schefflera actinophylla from Home Depot of all places last year. I do believe this species fits the bill perfect for desired effect.
      I have done my damndest to stay out of second-home depot this year as, 16months into home ownership has worn me thin of that place. Last year though i did see a steady pattern of nice specimens coming in about every three months.
      I picked up one for the living room (yeah, that's right.) and two for the office. Each container had three trunks that were 7+ft to start. *and for only $20 a pot!*. They're all 9+ft tall now, nice for forced-to-be-indoor plants.
      I believe these would be annuals as soon as the temps hit 55F, though you're well familiar with that song and dance. But hey, $20 for something so big and beautiful is not a bad deal.
      I'm considering setting my living room plant outdoors this summer and then cutting it down for winter storage (i can fit 10 other plants in that precious southern facing window).
      Little late on the comment i know, but still i hope this finds a good read?.

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  11. Lift the bamboo out and divide it.

    Replant just one half of it (not sure what you can do with the other half, that's up to you). Those Sasa are pretty rampant growers and that planter is probably just one great big rootball and it is likely becoming pot-bound.

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    1. I'm sure you're right about it being a big root ball. I've imagined (?) I see the back of that tank starting to bow outward. How exactly would we "lift" it out though? That sounds like a job for heavy machinery.

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  12. I just bought 'Dark Star' when I was on the scouting trip for you at Means. You could go for three of them, and they respond well to pruning. Somehow I can't see you going for a repeat performance when you have a chance to try something new.

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    1. You know me very well "Somehow I can't see you going for a repeat performance when you have a chance to try something new"...

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    2. The David Fross book on ceanothus shows a Dark Star espalliered around a Gothic window. The same effect could be achieved with the prosprate C. griseus Diamond Heights.

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    3. I can see that I need to look for this book.

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  13. U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi.....(google the song if you're not familiar :))

    The Ceanothus sounds good. What about Daphniphyllums, Mahonias, and Aucubas? Also a low trellis with an evergreen climber is another option.

    Sasa palmata makes a good potted specimen but only if maintained every year. It is very rampant though if planted out so keep it containerised and make sure no rhizome escapes into the ground via the drainage holes of the stock tank.

    Perhaps give the bamboo a second chance by doing half culm pruning rather than dividing? Aim to decongest the clump by removing half the culms on ground level. Go through the culms one by one and keep the ones looking healthy, young, with a good amount of fresh foliage at the top. Chop off anything dead and looking old and scruffy. Be ruthless but just make sure the ones you keep are spaced apart evenly so you don't have large gaps.

    If you persevere for an hour or so, you'll be left with an airy bamboo with a canopy of large leaves and the culms will look striped from a distance which this particular bamboo is known for. And once you've done it yearly maintenance will be much easier, just chop off any dying culms and let new ones flourish but keeping reducing accordingly :)

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    1. OMG...not familiar but I know what's gonna be in my head for the rest of the evening!

      Totally hadn't thought of Daphniphyllum that's an interesting idea...also I know there are several Aucuba I should learn more about. I've only got A. longifolia.

      It was that "maintaining" part that had me apologizing. I know now that I should have been much better about it and then I wouldn't be in this place (I do regularly check the drainage hole). You make a good argument for the culm pruning...thank you!

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  14. You can try cutting it all the way down now and fertilizing it with some high-nitrogen fertilizer but I say rip it out and plant some evergreen herbs. Rosemary (both upright & creeping), sage, thyme, oregano, sweet bay, chives and maybe even lavender would look much better there and of course have the double advantage of being edible.

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    1. Rosemary...there is something I never would have thought of but like! Especially since you've supplied the visual of it growing both upright and cascading down over the edges...

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  15. Hey its Neil again from Victoria.. I had one those stock tanks filled with an invasive species of bamboo(hid the U-G-l-Y neighbour!).
    I like the idea of a rusted metal trellis perhaps of rebar with a pop of chartreuse like golden hop? Or how about some feathery Restios.. but not sure how hardy in a container. There are some beauties at Government House here (which,by the way, you all need to see if ever you are on our island). My last idea is scouring rush Equisetum hyemale. Happy Spring to you all by the way!

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    1. I thought about restios but was concerned they'd do the same flop forward (reaching for the sun) thing, since their stems seem about as sturdy as this bamboo. But I do love the look of them. Equisetum hyemale is a very interesting idea, seconded below by Evan...I'll be thinking about that one! (oh and Government House, check, it's on the list, thank you!)

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  16. welcome to your jungle!

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  17. Well I don't have any great ideas but it sounds like you've got some good ones now. I like the aucuba suggestion. I have your problem of my bamboo in containers getting too root bound. Believe it or not, it actually dried out over the past week - I mean really dry, like rolling leaves dry. I had to water it today!

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    1. Oh my...that dry? I guess this mornings rain dump came just in time for you?

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  18. Equisetum hyemale (horsetail) would be my suggestion, if you just want something simple and evergreen.

    http://pinterest.com/pin/244461085993718367/
    http://pinterest.com/pin/244461085994308396/

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    1. Complete with visuals! Thanks Evan. I wouldn't have ever thought of this without your and Neil's suggestion. I do have another smaller tank nearby filled with this plant and love it...

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  19. Sounds like you have a good reason to pull it out. I'm afraid I'm no help in suggesting an alternative, considering the difference in our climates, but I'm sure you'll come up with something fabulous. Poor Andrew though, having to dig all that out.

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