I've been hearing that this winter in the Midwest (remember that I'm in St. Louis) has a high probability of being a mild one. As a zone 6 bamboo grower I hope for a mild winter every year, as it's important for the plants to keep their green leaves in order to have any chance of a "size up" next year -- meaning larger, taller culms emerging in spring.
The last two winters were tough on bamboo here. Two winters ago was the worst, when all of my plants defoliated -- you can see the results in the image above. At -8ºF (-22ºC) I was literally one or two degrees away from "topkill", where even the culms are killed -- probably the worst-case scenario for bamboo lovers. The winter before that (which would have been 2012-2013) was quite mild though -- is this what I should expect for 2015-2016?
If first freeze is any indication of a winter's potential, things are looking good. Last year we had our first below-freezing temperatures exactly a year ago (on October 30), and I scrambled to bring the tender plants inside:
In 2013 we got to 27ºF (-3ºC) early -- on October 24 -- resulting in banana leaf damage:
Sad but also pretty in its own way.
In 2012 (the mild year) it wasn't until November 10 or so that we got below freezing, and that year it was mild enough that the borderline hardy (here) Phyllostachys nigra (aka "Black Bamboo") was able to reach a respectable size:
Oh, it was so pretty that summer!
Is that what's in store again for 2016? I sure hope so!
The low temperature last night was about 35ºF (2ºC), and the forecast indicates that it won't get below 40ºF (4ºC) for the next 10 days at least. A good start to a mild winter I'd say!