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


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.