Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Bamboo Uprooting Movement

That's it - I'm officially launching the BUM.

I'm still nursing my wounds after having to deal with a client's rampant black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) - don't believe 'em when they tell you it's clump forming: it is, but only if you want clumps six feet or more across.

Now I've been collared by my next-door-neighbour wondering what these big hefty weeds growing in her garden are. It turns out that when the next-door-neighbour on her other side had his garden re-designed, the designer (who should have known better) scattered bamboo willy-nilly through the otherwise well-planned borders - and crucially, along the dividing fence between the two gardens.

The bamboo has now decided next door looks kind of nice too, so it's making a bid to colonise my poor neighbour's garden. This is what happens when a garden is designed without consideration for the fact that it's a garden: i.e. it grows, and some plants grow more politely than others.

Bamboo is a very impolite plant, has no respect for borders, or anything else for that matter. It sends out runners as thick as steel hawsers - and as difficult to get out - that then send up huge canes which you simply can't ignore or live with - or get rid of. I believe it should be classified as invasive, in the same bracket as Japanese knotweed. After all, no doubt the Victorians thought knotweed gave borders height, stately elegance and architectural beauty when they brought it back from the Himalayas in the 1800s - and look where that got us.

I'm now wondering whether I'll cause a civil war if I advise my neighbour to do something unmentionable involving cutting a stem and pouring something lethal down its hollow middle. Please - don't find yourself in the same situation. Get it out of your gardens. Now.

6 comments:

gnman said...

Interesting - we planted a clients border a couple of years ago with 2 clumps of phyllostachys nigra (not our idea, we were working to a designers brief) and we're just about to install a mirror image border for the same client....maybe we should talk him out of it! How long before the 18 inch clumps (25 lt pots) we planted get out of hand ??

The Constant Gardener said...

it takes a year or so - if you're putting in 18" plants they'll get to about 2ft next year so will still be quite civilised. The third year seems to be when they start causing problems - expect the clump to be 3ft and rising... when they really get going (in about yr 4) they can top 5ft across easily in my experience. My client's clump occupied an entire corner of her garden (so measured approx 8ft across) - not in one single clump but in shoots rising from runners.

In the last garden I worked in the designer got the landscaper to dig down 2ft and install steel root restrainers... b***r of a job for the landscaper but I'd imagine it would hold back the tide for an extra year or maybe two....

emmat said...

I absolutely chortled with laughter at this post the first time I read it, it's hilarious.

Do you know I have it in my garden, have done for ten years, and it's perfectly okay? It's next to an eleganus, a phormium, and a wild rose so maybe they compete with it enough. They are all planted very close. It's never spread more than about one and half foot across, stays the same size, just gets taller. I'd love it to be bigger! But not terribly much more so. I wonder what the difference is.

The Constant Gardener said...

now that is interesting. I have to admit to extreme prejudice due to earlier bad experiences (see above) but I'm willing to be exposed as the blinkered reactionary I probably am. Perhaps this is what I should advise clients - only plant it with big thugs that will keep it firmly in its place! I wonder what your soil is like? that might be why it hasn't gone bananas too... never come across a bamboo yet that hasn't made a bid for freedom. Perhaps you have a new sport that naturally restrains itself... if so I'd really like a cutting, I could make a fortune :D

Victoria said...

No, you're not a blinkered reactionary, you're absolutely right. I inherited P.nigra in the back garden and my neighbour's always complaining about canes coming up on her side of the fence. I sympathise: they're huge. But in the front garden, I have something even bigger, which I THINK is P vivax aurecaulis. It's spectacular, but in a slightly scary way. I'm waiting for it to come up through the living room floor one day, like the hand in the final scene of 'Carrie'

The Constant Gardener said...

ah! a fellow sympathiser!

re your front garden bamboo - I was listening to GQT on the radio the other week and they had a question from a bloke who had an Arundinaria, I believe it was (the bamboo that should strike fear into the hearts of all right-thinking folk) in his front garden by the house. He said stems had started emerging from his walls... on the INSIDE of the house...

they advised him to get in a surveyor and a very good builder, asap. And to dig up the bamboo, if he could, which I doubt.

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