Bamboo gardens have been around for centuries, their creation and maintenance being a kind of Zen exercise in countries like China and Japan. The largest bamboo garden in the world is the Fuji Bamboo Garden, found in 1955 and containing around 100,000 bamboo plants comprising about 450 bamboo species varieties from all over the world.
But bamboo gardens have, in recent decades, become popular in the western world as well. Bamboo plants are fairly easy to take care of, the only challenge being that certain species tend to spread invasively if not properly contained. Bamboo can grow tall enough in a home garden to serve as a natural wall or screen. Thick bamboo shoots can also be used as containers a placed throughout the garden to add ambiance and style. Bamboo plants go well with other perennial evergreens, and medium-height and tall varieties can also serve as background to help accentuate colorful flower plots and other bright plants. Certain shorter varieties, like the shrub bamboos, can be used as ground fillers or for garden borders.
Planting a Bamboo Garden
Out of the more than 1,200 bamboo varieties that exist in the world today, there are about 200 species that one can grow in the North American climates. In general, bamboo plants have a preference for neutral soil and can be planted at any time during the year, so long as the climate is mild. If planted in cold climates, spring is the best time to plant. The earlier in the seasonal cycle they’re planted, the more time they’ll have to harden and thus survive the coming winter.
Heavy mulch is good for protecting bamboo against harsh, cold climates. Much that provides good insulation can help bamboo retain moisture, so that, even if frozen, the bamboo plant will have a better chance of living through the winter. Four to five inches of mulch over the topsoil is usually recommended.
If planting tall bamboo in your garden for the purpose of fashioning a screen or hedge, it is best to prepare the ground by laying down compost or manure. This will give the roots good soil in which to spread as the bamboo undergoes its rapid growth.
If planting tall, slender bamboo stalks, it is a good idea to stake them, as it prevents the wind from uprooting the pants and damaging its roots. If properly taken care of, a bamboo garden can produce about 30 to 40 healthy shoots from a single plant, each about ¾ inches in diameter and measuring up to 20 feet high, depending on the variety of bamboo being planted.
To prevent bamboo plants from invading the rest of the plants in your garden, or just spaces where you don’t want it to go, a root barrier is needed. This can be a natural barrier, such as planting the bamboo at the foot of a cliff or hill, or an artificial barrier. Lining the barrier about 20 inches away from the main root system is the best bet. When the roots touch the barrier, they shrink a way and resurface, at which point it becomes much easier to prune them.