giant black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra 'Giant Black' 10

KotoJazz 27: Bamboo

Bamboo has diverse applications in a Japanese garden, including the plant itself ranging from short ground cover bamboo to tall bamboo with distinctive black, yellow, even orange colored stalks. Bamboo is also used for wind chimes, water spouts, ground cover, wind breaks, garden furniture, trellises, and privacy screens.

There are three main types of bamboo, and the two most common images of bamboo in gardens are the clumping bamboo and running bamboo. The third, tall timber bamboo, is not so commonly used in gardens due to their size- they grow to over 40 feet tall.

Clumping Bamboo: One bamboo type more commonly used in Japanese gardens is the clumping bamboo, which prefers the heat and tropical climates, but can survive elsewhere. The clumping bamboo is ideal for all gardens because it tends to grow slowly and can be relegated to limited areas as the name implies; maybe only a couple of inches per year and no more than 10 feet range and more commonly 2-5 feet. Gardeners be forewarned that in the right environment, clumping bamboo species are known to spread uncontrollably despite its name and reputation.

Running Bamboo: The running bamboo must be contained in a pot or other barrier in order restrict its growth in a garden, or it will take over the garden. It will do this by send out runners not too far under the surface to take root and expand outward. It virtually has no limit on its range of potential expansion. It is very important to create barriers for these types of bamboo and the runners are know to climb over and under barriers if they are not deep enough or high enough.

Some of the most visually resplendent dwarf ground cover bamboo can be the most invasive runners, so it is recommended you restrict them to containers. These include the following dwarf species – white stripe, golden yellow stripe, green stripe, and fern leaf.

I found these websites to be the most useful for learning more about gardening with bamboo:

  • Bamboo Inspiration
  • Bamboo Garden (Oregon)
  • Bamboo fences- Zen Japanese Landscape (Washington)
  • List of Bamboo Species, Wikipedia (technical information guide only)
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