Growing bamboo in a narrow space – pros, cons, and a solution for support



Last spring, May 2012, we added five bamboo plants, Bambusa multiplex Featherleaf, along our fence line.   This variety is the clumping type (no aggressive rhymezone runners) for easy control near the property line; it takes zone 8b afternoon sun; it reaches twelve feet maximum height- so not a height that will dominate our urban pie-shaped lot.

After a year with the Featherleaf bamboo, I appreciate how it sways and rustles in the wind and admire how the slender leaves brightly glow in the sunlight.   A negative, in a narrow space at least, is its fine culms that tend to arch out as opposed to the larger, straight and erect culms often seen in narrow bamboo hedges.   This drooping habit is common in clumping bamboos that can take sun.  As expected, it grew minimally in height its first year, but it filled out considerably, and its natural tendency to arch began to block the adjacent pathway.

I didn't take a proper before photo, but the left side of this photo shows the bamboo encroaching on the heavily used wood plank path.  Confrontations at the side gate were becoming regular events.

The left side of this image shows the bamboo encroaching on the often walked plank path.  After a recent nice long rain, it flopped completely onto the path.

I knew when they were planted that they’d eventually need corralling to work in the slim space, and I had planned to use an idea I’d seen on the Digging blog featuring a Houston garden where bamboo was secured to a fence.  It turned out that this was not a good option for us, so I came up with a similar non-fussy and inexpensive solution.  I’m very happy with its form, function and low-cost.  My husband appreciated how light the materials were and how quickly this solution came together.IMG_2004[1]


The structure was built using….
– 4′ steel stakes (sold as yard sign stakes at Lowe’s and HD)
– bamboo poles found at nurseries and garden centers (3/4″ diameter at least)
– 8″ inch zip-ties
– spray paint (optional)

To install, we hammered the stakes in as posts, then attached bamboo poles to the front side of the stakes using zip-ties to “pretty them up”.  This gives the illusion of light and organic but with the strength and rigidity of steel.
The horizontal poles were then added by criss-crossing zip-ties.

The horizontal poles where attached with zip ties in a criss-cross lashing fashion.

Horizontal poles attached with zip-ties in a criss-cross lashing fashion.


It was an after thought to spray paint it to blend with the fence color.  This gives the illusion that perhaps the lashings are something other than zip-ties (above) and helps the 15′ long structure be less visibly prominent (below).


The plants were also pruned in a manner that is called “legging up” bamboo: the oldest and thinnest culms were removed from the center, and the secondary side growth was removed from the remaining culms so the foliage seems to float above bare lower culms.

My son then worked to add the same support to the new bamboo that swatted our faces each time we passed the backyard stone planters. 



Same support structure made in a square.   Extra height was left at the corner posts so that higher horizontal supports can be added as the plants get taller.



Before-  Featherleaf (on left) grown in planter before pruning and support


Two years ago, before & after: 2011 ~ 2013

A friend asked me yesterday to share some “before” photos of our front garden- photos from before the 2011 major revamp, when it was a very thirsty and tired yard.   This is the perfect cue to also update the blog with “after” photos showing the current garden, a la May 2013.  At the bottom there is also info. on the watering and fertilizer upkeep.

I’m surprised I didn’t post comparisons long ago!   I love before & afters, and it’s been nearly two years since we removed the lawn and improved the hard-scape.  I’m tickled that someone has interest, tickled enough to clear the hurdle of perfectionism and not wait till I have good current images to post.   The below recent photos are via my phone and in not-great light. But, they are better quality than what I’ve been posting recently- that is, they are better than nothing.

Notice the healthy sago palms. They've not looked as healthy since due to back-to-back hard winter freezes.

Before, late winter 2010 (just before our purchase of the home)-  I like the curves and contrast, but it looks ho-hum to me.  It does have neat and tidy going for it.

After, May 2013


Before, 2011

After 2013

After, 2013


Before, 2011- view from back gate, and shows line in dirt for future wood plank path


After, 2013- view from gate


Before, 2011, entry path / porch

After 2013- entry path / porch

After, 2013- entry path / porch


Spring 2012–  Taken about a year ago and one year after the big revamp.

After, Spring 2013

Spring 2013
Compare with above photo to see how the butterfly agave has grown this past year.  It kinda needs to stop.

The garden is hand watered:

– about 3x per week when newly planted during the still hot Sept.- Nov. 2011,

– then once per week during the first winter,

– then 2x per week during the summer of 2012 (the first summer),

– once per month this past winter,

– and every other week this recent spring.

Though I (usually) enjoy the 30 minutes spent hand watering, I hope to only need to water every other week this summer, the garden’s second summer.

Before planting in 2011, the soil was tilled and plenty of compost was added. Since then I’ve only added “compost tea” (brewed at a local nursery) about 5x per year and used a palm fertilizer around the sago palms.

Miguel’s Imports- home to delightful sleeping Mexicans and more.

So in the spirit of shopping locally, here are photos from Miguel’s Imports  located in central Austin.  I bought my new tall raspberry pot at Miguel’s after shopping around at a few local nurseries; their prices were the best and their selection is impressive if not daunting.

An agave sun-dial shows the time…plus the weather forecast.

These green pots with their mottled pattern and the groovy hollowed tree planter were favorites of mine.

Giant hand-grenade planters, anyone?

Terra cotta is actually what I intended to buy, and they carry a wide selection, from classical to modern forms.  This photo shows only about a third of the terra cotta area.

Miguel’s nursery has mostly cacti and succulents that are also competitively priced.  I bought a trio of Agave parryi truncata.

These were large- maybe 3′ tall. What a great focal point for drama and ambiance.

This photo does not do these foot tall black clay bats justice.  They are cool.

BONUS:  Miguel’s has a healthy 50% off area….which is how I came to purchase a raspberry pot instead of terra cotta.

In the right setting….I love, love, love a classic “sleeping Mexican”….

….such as in the foyer of this Spanish Colonial home, the set for the Meg Ryan movie “Hanging Up”; more on this fabulous house can be found at the Hooked on Houses blog.

From the Laguna Dirt blog– Sleeping Mexicans used as bookends…

But,  I digress….back to Miguel’s Imports~  my photos show a small sample of their stock located on Burnet Rd. near the North Loop cross street.   It’s huge, locally owned, and the staff was very friendly and helpful to me.

Spring entry garden update~ structure and foliage

I resisted spring’s garden fever because I didn’t want to plant or move anything till the deck and fence were stained.  That was done three weeks ago, and we’re completely happy with the results.

Here’s before~ 











And after~

 Obviously the plantings have also changed in the after photo; which brings me to some of what I’ve been up to these past two weekends, during my own “Hurry! Spring-is-almost-over fever”…..

We added five Featherleaf clumping bamboos (bambusa multiplex) along the property line fence.   These should green-up as they become established and grow up to about eight feet.  They already give nice movement.  If they begin to arch over into the path, I’ll use this cool fix I saw on the Digging garden blog.

I added two more culvert pipes to the driveway/entry bed, bringing the total to five culvert pipes in the front (three shown above).   Perhaps that’s enough salvaged drain pipe in the front garden.   Probably. 

Purple Pixie loropetalum (or dwarf chinese fringe flower) is in the tallest pipe, and a manicured Mexican Feather grass is in the smallest pipe.   The Butterfly agave has definitely grown since being transplanted in August.    Here’s the bed in harsh mid-day sun~  stained horozontal fence; culvert pipe plant grouping- with purple pixie loropetalum, butterfly agave and mexican feather grass; diamond frost in front

On the other side of the garden, at the end of the fence is also where two paths meet.  It’s a natural focal point, so I added a tall raspberry glazed pot planted again with Purple Pixie loropetalum.  I like how this relates with the Brake Light yuccas’ spike blooms.    

So the garden structure is coming together-  hardscape, shrubs and focal points.   When the soil is dry enough (more rain possibly this week!)…I have perennial flowers and groundcover to plant- some might say “the fun stuff”, but it’s all fun; and moving from structure and foliage is definitely a departure from my narrow gardening comfort zone.

Footprints in the garden~ an idea for Mother’s Day

We decorated this clay pot in 1998 when he was two years old.    The idea came when we were finger painting on the patio…and that’s the paint we used fourteen years ago on an 8” pot.    We made two more for his grandmother and great-grandmother and added cheery flowers for their Mother’s Day gifts.

It’s a treasured memento for me today – thought I’d pass this simple idea along.

Bloom Day~ look, then look closer

An Indiana garden blogger, Carol of  May Dreams Gardens, hosts a “Bloom Day” each month and invites bloggers everywhere to share what’s blooming in their gardens; this is my first time to take part, and I’m a day late in posting. 

Taking time to look….then look closer…..was time well spent for me~  thank you, Carol, for the inspiration and invitation!


A look (above) at a mixed container with tall Russian Sage Mexican bush sage /Salvia leucantha.  I like the natural upright, leggy look of it – this container isn’t showy, but I appreciate its honesty.

A closer look at the fuzzy pods.

A look at the super hardy Red Yucca….actually in the Agave family I read recently at 

A closer look at the forming bloom.

A look at the Heartleaf Ice Plant~ just again blooming in November after September’s serious chomping by a deer; a pointy agave now stands guard next to this pot to detere deer.

 I didn’t include all my blooms – like the 5′ and still showy Mexican Petunias or the still going strong Plumbago.  They’ll surely not be blooming for the next Bloom Day in December, but then again….around here one never knows. 

Must Have No-Fuss Moss Indoors?

I’ve been mossing around lately after a fellow Austin garden blogger, Pam at the fabulous Digging, introduced me to these decorative puffs called “moss rocks”.   To save on shipping, we considered going in together on an order.   They are not cheap but worth it in my opinion if they are truly as sustainable and easy-care as the website describes.

BUT then the question was raised if the moss really would be so easy to maintain indoors in Austin.  Was my $eramic “rock” (designed specifically to hold moss) destined for the local Goodwill shelf where shoppers would pick it up and think ‘Pretty color, but…what  is it?’

Was I essentially tossing $50 out the window for a high-end Chia Pet? 

So we ended up not placing the order…. but I remained hooked on wanting my very own Muppet-like zen oasis.

I called local nurseries looking for moss….the common name for this type of moss is “mood moss”, but all they had were pre-packaged mosses- most were artificially colored.   I wanted real live fresh moss and…..

I found it on eBay- about a square foot for $10 including shipping!  When it arrived from Pennsylvania a few days later, I poked around the house for what to pair it with and came up with a miniature pot, a shell and a piece of raku pottery.

Experimenting with what surface puts mood moss in a happy state; dirt vs. a slick shell surface

A thrift store find raku shell dish- I like the organic shape and texture paired with moss

My mosses are in sunny locations but no direct sun, and I’m misting them liberally bi-weekly.   I may still order the more elegant designer  moss rock; I especially like the lichen shade, the largest of the three in the first photo.

Dicranum moss, often called mood moss

 In the past I’ve used dicranum moss for lining Easter baskets and for covering the dirt of potted indoor bulbs.    Here are some useful facts and clever ideas about moss….

*  “the truth about moss” from expert David Spain

Martha Stewart’s recent moss segment with Mr. Spain

Roll the Music, We Have a Winner….

But first I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by to leave a comment and show their enthusiasm for buying local and their appreciation toward The Natural Gardener

….the winner is LisaH of Austin!  Lisa, Congratulations!  I’ll send you an email with info. for redeeming your gift.   Thank you Natural Gardener for the donated certificate! 

I’m grateful to the very active Austin garden blogging community for introducing me to some independent nurseries that I am eager to visit soon…and for reminding me of the VALUE of shopping locally.    While shopping at local nurseries this past weekend I purchased….

Inland Sea Oats (chasmanthium latifolium) – (below) shade-loving, graceful and looks like a cross between bamboo and prairie grass;  I’m planting it in a strip between a fence and a walkway to soften the parallel edges of the space; it has great rustling movement in the lightest of breezes- nice to include nature’s music in a garden.  (photos provided by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Gardener of Good and Evil Blog)



Berkeley Sedge (carex divulsa) – (below) an evergreen carex that is clumping, grass like and floppy like rabbit ears, love it; I’m planting twenty of these in a portion of my garden that is part sun/shade where way-too-thirsty bermuda grass once was. (photo provided by The New York Times / garden design by Mark Word; Annie’s Annuals

Devil’s Shoestring (nolina texana) – (below) an evergreen uber hardy Texas native; I’m adding this amongst my boulders for year-round green and a truly authentic Texas Hill Country look.     (photo provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

 I’ve never seen any of the above lovely xeric plants at the big box stores.   Now, I’ve got to go get planting!   I’ll post photos soon…..

And, again, below  are some of the fabulous central Texas garden blogs that participated in Support Your Local Independent Nursery Month – brainchild of Pam Penick of Digging.  I visit these blogs often for inspiration and know-how.  


The Whimsical Gardener

Rock Rose

Vert Austin

Digging- It all starts with a patch of dirt

The Shovel-Ready Garden

Renee’s New Blog

Sharing Nature’s Garden 

Gardening in Austin

J Peterson Garden Design

Go Away, I’m Gardening!

Great Stems

Austin Nurseries Giveaway:The Natural Gardener

I am thrilled to offer you an opportunity to win a $25 gift certificate from The Natural Gardener– a large, diverse and locally-owned nursery and all around cool place to hang out in Austin.   And what timing,  since fall is perfect for planting in Austin.  It’s true – check it out!   Leave a comment on this post (click to your left) and voila!  You just entered.  I’ll draw a name from entries here and announce the winner in one week, on October 27th. 

Check out The Natural Gardener’s website for great information on gardening and landscaping in Austin, such as monthly “To Do Lists” and “Tips” specific to Central Texas – so perfect for newbie me.   It’s also helpful to keep tabs on their “Weekly” page on the website for specials, events and coupons; for instance, this week there is a coupon for 25%  off any one item. 

And there’s more….. 

As part of Support Your Independent Nursery Month, Austin garden bloggers are featuring local nurseries and giveaways, with an aim to encourage shopping local.  These nurseries need our support just as much as we need their knowledge and inventory of garden goodies that are specific to Austin’s diverse and extreme conditions….

Native Plants + Local Know-How =

Lovely, Low-Cost, Low-Fuss Landscapes!

To encourage you to get to know and spend your dollars at one of our fine local nurseries, the following blog sites have teamed up with our home-grown nurseries to spread awareness and some gift-certificate love!   To enter each of the separate giveaways listed below, click on the blog’s name, enjoy the virtual nursery tour and simply leave a comment that will enter you to win that site’s prize that was generously donated from the featured local nursery~

Sharing Nature’s Garden: $50 gift certificate from Emerald Garden

J Peterson Garden Design: $50 gift certificate from The Great Outdoors

Go Away, I’m Gardening!: $100 gift certificate from Sunshine Landscape & Garden Center

Great Stems: $50 gift certificate from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

The Whimsical Gardener: $25 gift certificate from It’s About Thyme

Rock Rose: $50 gift certificate from Shoal Creek Nursery  

Digging: $100 gift certificate & a Fall Power Package (valued at $50) from Barton Springs Nursery

 I know – quite a line-up, right? 

I hope you’ll visit The Natural Gardener soon- you’re in for a treat!

Rules for the giveaways-

  1.  You must leave a comment on this post to enter.
  2. Each participating blog will hold its own random drawing, so leave a comment on each blog to enter all the giveaways.
  3. Only one comment per person per giveaway.
  4. Participating bloggers and their families are ineligible to win.
  5. Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on 10/26.
  6. Winners will be announced on each blog on 10/27.
  7. Winners must pick up the prize with a photo ID in person within two weeks of winning. Prizes will not be mailed.

I’ll follow the sun…


 I’ve been following the light and shadows in my garden. A late afternoon peachy glow projects along our long entry wall – “Showtime!” says the crepe myrtle.

(above) I’d like to plant something that will be sculptural against the wood step enclosure (on the right)…any ideas?

 (below) I also love how the afternoon sun skims across the barrel cactus near the driveway; the yellow spines glow a welcome home kiss to us as sweet as any showy bloom.    This actually doesn’t do the (lower) barrel cactus justice; I need to capture that moment.

(below)   My agave looks dewy in the morning light – even during a summer drought; light filters through a huge oak tree  from nine till about ten, and the sharp-edged butterfly agave has a soft watercolor moment each day.

Where do shadows bloom in your world?

Oh, and here’s a link to a fabulous, short shadow-puppet show (seriously!!) on YouTube…worth the click I promise~

Previous Older Entries