My garden is a learning lab. And you can truly see how it has evolved – from the earliest proof of my infatuations of 14 years ago, when we first moved to Oregon, to my later obsessions. As we all know, plants grow, and eventually your earlier follies catch up with you. For the past couple of years, in order to regain some room in my over-planted yard, I have taken out some plants that have gotten too big. One of the first loves I planted upon moving in, was an extra black variety of black bamboo – Phyllostachos nigra ‘Hales’.
I did enough research on bamboo to know that this was a runner, and that I needed to contain it. So, I dug down two feet, and lined the hole with corrugated metal roofing before plopping in my 5 gallon pot of bamboo. Of course, by now I know better, but at the time, I thought what I did would work. Another thing I thought would work to rein it in, was to be stingy with the water. Let’s just say I should have known better. Plants may not have brains, but they do have survival instincts. So naturally, as the surroundings got more water than the bamboo, it took action and headed for the outside. Now, in retrospect, that makes a lot of sense – in this regard, I was the fool – not the plant. In my defense, it still took almost a decade for the bamboo to bust out through the metal, but it eventually happened. And when it did, all bets were off.
I started chipping away at the congested root mass, but soon realized I needed help, and hired my friend William – and avid gardener and hort head with much bigger muscles than mine – to come and help me out. Amazingly, he remains my friend, even after this ordeal. Because it WAS one hell of an ordeal – trust me on that.
William cut the bamboo back to its original confines. I was mentally prepared to take it all out, but when we saw how good it looked, once tamed, we decided to try what the Chinese do to control their bamboo – a gravel filled trench going all the way around the bamboo clump. The shoots will still escape, but are much easier to remove, because of the gravel.
William later posted about that process on Facebook, so here is a screen shot of that bit of wisdom, for any future readers who are thinking about planting running bamboo. As in; Don’t pull an Anna – do it right the first time.
So, lesson learned. Would I plant it again? You bet – I love that stuff. But next time, I will know what I need to do to keep it happy and contained. The future will tell if I am able to pay attention to any errant shoots (they will no doubt be there), and snip them off before they wander too far. I will do my best – I really don’t want to have to ask anyone to help me with this again. It’s brutal work – ugh!