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


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.

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