Friday, February 25, 2011

Bamboo - Sasa

I love bamboo; the sort of exotic look, the variety of leaves and forms, the height (wow, the height on some of these), the way it spreads... No wait a minute. Lets just say I love everything about bamboo except its bad manners. Most of the bamboos are a bit ill-mannered, spreading all over the place and very difficult to get rid of once they get out of control. If you stop by the garden, I'll be happy to show you the fairly large, maybe 50 feet by 80 or 100 feet section I've been trying to get rid of for 3 years now - cover with black plastic, 2 feet of mulch, roundup, digging, digging, digging... You still risk putting old, hard, sharp remnants of bamboo through your foot when you walk there if you're not careful.
Now that I've gotten your attention about being careful about where (if) you plant bamboo, let me tell you about some of the nicer ones out there. I'll start with the Sasas. These will spread, but much more slowly. Plant them in their own place, ideally where you can mow around the bed, and I think you'll just love these.
This first one is the plain one of the ones that we grow here. It is Sasa tsuboiana. This, like the rest of the group, was very slow getting established, and now that it has settled in, is very slow with the spreading thing. Some books even call this one semi-clumping. I'd agree with that description. It is glossy green and the leaves can get quite large. I've seen them get to 15-18 inches long, and maybe 6 inches wide. Height is maybe 3-4 feet tall. It is good to zone 5 and likes light shade. Unless the winter is terribly severe, it it evergreen here.

Below is the second one we added, and it was even slower to establish, but now we have a couple of small colonies. It is Sasa veitchii. This is supposed to get a little taller than the plain green one, but they are the same here. The spread is also quite slow. It is good to zone 5 and is supposed to grow in sun or shade, but we have it growing under some very tall white pines and it seems quite content. New leaves that are put out in the spring are all green and stay that way through the summer. In the fall when the nights start to get crisp, the white border starts to develop and gets whiter and wider until it looks like the photo. It keeps this coloration throughout the winter. Really horrible weather may cause some 'burn' on the white edges, but it is still quite striking in the winter garden.
The third is our most recent addition. This is Sasa kurilensis 'Shimofuri'. Although my book says that this can reach 10 feet tall, mine is 3 feet and has been that way and doesn't seem interested in getting any bigger. It will grow in sun or shade and we do give this one quite a bit more sun than the other two. This one is quite pretty when it comes up in the spring. The culms are pale yellow and emerge from lime green sheaths that are edged in deep purple. After a month, the color fades to a pale, soft green, but by then, the leaves have come out with their wonderful pin-striping of green and creamy white. Good to zone 4, but may not be evergreen in colder climates. I should have a couple of pots of this one the sell for the first time this year.
So, not all bamboos are horrible and invasive. There are a number that are pretty good at clumping and staying put, mostly the smaller ones. I'll talk about a few others next time.

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