Bamboo Chop!

I've been contemplating a drastic chop of one of my bamboos for several months. Since cutting a large, established plant to the ground is an emotionally difficult thing to do -- probably physically difficult too actually -- I debated for a long while.


I decided just after returning from Scotland in January that I would definitely do it, and since it's one of the first bamboos to shoot I knew I wouldn't have too much time to make it happen. On Thursday 21 Feb the weather forecast was favorable, so I got the loppers out, layered up, and headed out to do some gardening for the first time in months. First though, a warmup project: these broken culms.


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The support frame I built isn't quite tall enough to adequately hold these Phyllostachys bissetii culms up when they're weighted down with snow, so several of them had snapped. I just lopped them off at the break point and then trimmed some of the other culms that were drooping too much:


Problem solved!

Or at least problem modified, since I now have more culms to get rid of. Piling bamboo on the driveway seems to be my M. O., so I stuck with it:


If I cut those all up immediately I wouldn't have the energy to tackle the main project of the day, so I left them.

The main project is my first bamboo:


This Fargesia sp. 'Rufa' was planted in 2006. This clumping bamboo is the only one that does well in the St. Louis area, and it's put on some height and width every year since planting, until now it's about 7' (2.1m) tall and probably 10' (3m) wide. It's taking up a lot of space, although I admit it's such a beauty here at the edge of the patio:


Besides being too big and blocking two paths, there are loads of dead culms inside there. I tried cutting a bunch of those dead ones out last year and it was just too difficult. So my only real option was to cut this down completely and let it refresh itself. Sure it will be thinner, but that should be good for the plant. It should be a bit smaller too, but we'll see.

I jumped in with the loppers and just started hacking pieces off until I could get at the base:


Doesn't look too bad like that, until you get up close:


Just keep swimming trimming, right?

I'd make a few cuts with the loppers -- such a satisfying crunch -- then pull the culms out. The leafy parts were all tangled together, so pulling from the bottom was the only way. Not too difficult, just repetitive.


After not too much time (about XX minutes according to the timestamps on the photos), I had the whole thing down:


Hey, I had forgotten that little rabbit statue was under there!


There are two rotted remnants of log sections too, both sort of fused to the ground so I'll just leave them. One of them has several Rufa culms poking through it.

Man, there were a lot of culms in there!


Each of them was quite thin though maybe 3/8" (10mm) at most. After clearing them out of the way, you can see what a drastic change this made:


From the other angle (on the driveway looking down):


And here's something that has never been possible before, a shot from the other side looking back into the patio:


(Sorry about the poor image quality on that shot -- I must have changed a camera setting by accident)

Here's all that's left...


...a bunch of little bamboo stumps that would really hurt if you stepped on them with bare feet. Good thing this will start shooting long before it's warm enough to walk around outside with unprotected feet!


Here's another look at the before and after:



Eeep! What have I done?


I'm still considering taking a division or two from the edge of the clump, but it's difficult to see where the clump ends now. Maybe I have to wait until the shoots start emerging for that.

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Lisa  – (February 28, 2019 at 5:55 AM)  

Wow! I'm exhausted just thinking about all that lopping and hauling! But what a difference it makes! That's the rewarding part, when the work is done and you can really see that you did something! (Still can't comment unless I log in to Chrome. I think it's because I have an age old Blogger blog and Blogger wants to link to it in my signature. But anyway - where there's a will, there's a way!)

outlawgardener  – (February 28, 2019 at 9:13 AM)  

You certainly were industrious. Such a dramatic change that you'll be so happy with once the bamboo comes back.

Tarzanus  – (March 1, 2019 at 12:51 AM)  

I have exactly the same problem, a lot of dead culms inside that are impossible to clean out. Tried to clean it up two years in a row now and it's getting worse. Culms are growing tightly together, so they end up becoming leaf-free in the middle and quickly die-off. I wanted to cut it down last year and hesitated. I didn't want to lose shoots when it started shooting. I will try doing it this year if shooting doesn't arrive too soon.
Good job!

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