Let's add some bamboo: 2008

After the projects of 2006 that gave my garden "purpose" and the excitement of 2007 in buying lots of new plants to fill in around the patio, the spring of 2008 was eagerly awaited. I bought more plants and did a few little projects that I barely documented with photos. But if I had to summarize 2008 with a single word, it would be "bamboo".

Even though I had bought a couple of small clumping bamboos in 2006, for some reason I awoke from my winter gardening slumber this year and thought "I'll give big bamboo a try".


I'm really not sure why it happened, as these were my existing bamboos in 2008:

Fargesia 'Rufa'
Fargesia robusta, after a tough winter.

The robusta isn't cold-hardy enough for our climate (even though it was sold here, and the available information lists it as so) so is now only 1/2 the size that it was in 2006. Didn't look like it would ever reach its 10-15' mature height.

I guess I was thinking that I really wanted a bamboo that was 12' tall or more, producing the thick culms that come to mind when you think of bamboo. Perhaps it was just chance that I noticed the "Yellow Groove" bamboo in the local garden center one morning, or maybe I was subconsciously keeping an eye out for the unique leaf pattern of bamboo. Whatever the reason I saw it and bought one locally (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). Then I bought a second that was just a small plant in a 1 gallon pot, Phyllostachys bissetii. Then I made my first drive to Needmore Bamboo Company near Bloomington Indiana and I think that's what got me completely hooked on this plant. I bought another bamboo there, Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis'.

That's the 'Spectabilis' on the left, the small bissetii in the middle, and the aureosulcata (commonly called "Yellow Groove" bamboo) on the right. I had transplanted both the bissetii and Yellow Groove into larger pots so I would have more time to prepare their planting beds. The bissetii would be going along the driveway, behind that woodpile that's just barely visible at the left edge of the photo above. The 'Spectabilis' would be going here:

I had to remove a few of the large, unwanted bush honeysuckles back in that corner, then built a short raised bed to help contain the rhizomes and define the area that the bamboo would be allowed to fill.

The Yellow Groove got a new raised bed which ended up looking somewhat like a boat:

(That's the box I dismantled earlier this year in case you were thinking it looked familiar.)

I did some projects that were not related to bamboo in the spring of 2008, including creating this walkway using some of the concrete chunks from the slab that was underneath the old deck:

I also decided to experiment with a Buffalo grass lawn in part of my yard. Buffalo grass is a native turfgrass that needs very little water -- 2007's summer drought and resulting lawn kill convinced me to give this a try. I decided to start on the hill between the driveway and the veggie bed -- where my two newer planting beds are:

What was once a grassy slope is now just ugly bare soil. It certainly needs some help.

I mixed some compost into the soil and planted the "plugs":

This species of grass reportedly spreads quite quickly, so we'll see what happens.

I also planted a new tree in the spot where the dead 'Seiryu' Japanese Maple was:

That's the best photo I have of this Contorted White Pine (Pinus strobus 'Torulosa' aka 'Contorta') after planting it. In fact, I don't even remember the details of planting this... it must have gone very smoothly.

I also planted a couple of Apple Serviceberry trees, but I didn't take any photos of those (not even poor ones).

In another project I added some rocks to the beds at the side of the house:

I love rocks.
I'm thinking of creating a sort of dry stream bed over here, since it's terribly compacted, hard to mow, and water runs down it like a stream during heavy rains anyway. This is the first step in that process.

So then I just spent a few months tending the garden and watching things grow. I also took a second trip to Needmore Bamboo and picked up some smaller species. Brad was cleaning out his inventory a little and gave me a bunch of "weak" plants for free, so I ended up bringing home much more than I expected:

We didn't take the truck on this trip and let me tell you, the back seat of the car was packed with plants!

Most of these plants went in new beds I created along both sides of the driveway:

But one species went in a new bed back by the new Bald Cypress tree that I planted the previous fall:

This was the year that I was painfully introduced to the saddleback caterpillar:

Saddleback caterpillar. Ouch.
It was munching on some of the new bamboos, and I brushed it with the back of my hand. Unbelievably painful!

As the plants in the garden start maturing, it's becoming a place that you can get lost in -- which is exactly what I want. There were a couple of mornings this summer that I was really startled by a fox:

Both times it didn't see me until just after I saw it. There is no better morning waker-upper than coming face-to-face with a wild animal in your garden, especially a rare one like a fox (rare around here). As you can see there was no time to focus correctly -- I'm just glad I captured a couple of shots!

Here's a look at the projects later in the year:

I put Buffalo grass around these steppers too.

3 months and pretty much filled in!

The stream plantings of sedum and thymes are really filled in now too:

Everything is looking great, and my hard work was really paying off -- I was quite satisfied with the way the garden was progressing.

Then a little storm called Hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast and rushed northward, and it changed some things even after a 700 mile journey to St. Louis. Since a lot more happened in 2008, I'm going to stop here and continue with that storm in another post.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 24, 2010 at 12:27 PM)  

Yeah, the bamboos have arrived. Can't wait for the next installment. Already your yard is STUNNING. It's a testament to what can be achieved with hard work, perseverance and a vision.

Christine  – (March 21, 2011 at 9:22 AM)  

I forgot to mention in my last comment that I LOVE your boxes!

Unknown  – (March 27, 2011 at 11:01 PM)  

Alan, does planting running bamboo in a raised bed actually contain it? I was under the impression that once the bamboo reached the edge of the bed, new rhizomes would just dive under the edge and pop up the other side.

Alan  – (March 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM)  

DD: no, it doesn't really contain the rhizomes except maybe for a year or two. It does allow for improved soil and lets you plant where you might not be able to though. In the case of my 'Spectabilis' bed, there are lots of tree roots and some bush honeysuckle stumps, making it almost impossible to plant in the ground.

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