bamboo questions

We have a 6' stucco wall in our back yard, and beyond that wall is a fairly busy street and a large retail complex (stores, banks, restaurants, etc.). Want to screen that view up to about 25'. I had a stucco retaining wall built along the outside of the 50' stucco wall to encloses a 3'x50' area to plant bamboo. We live in San Diego about 10 miles inland from the coast (zone 10 I think). Our back yard is only about 25' deep, so this bamboo will be right on top of us and needs to have an erect habit so the back yard doesn't get too claustrophobic.
My questions:
1. I want to mix bamboos, both for the look and so that if one type doesn't do well or flowers or something that the entire screen doesn't thin out. Would runners and clumpers do ok together together in such a restricted area, or is it better to go exclusively with one or the other. The clumper would be B. oldhamii and the runners would be Phyllostachys (vivax and henon and possibly a smaller plant as well)?
2. We've been getting a lot of conflicting opinions from bamboo sellers on whether B. oldhamii should be planted in a 3' wide area. Of the six or so we've talked to, 3 or 4 recommended against it (two very strongly) and two said it would do fine (one very strongly). How much room (width) does oldhamii need? And if the space is smaller than optimal will the plants just be shorter than normal or will they just not develop at all? I've seen picutures of oldhamii growing as a screen along some narrow strips (see the Burbank, Irvine, and Long Beach photos at the link below), so I have my doubts about the nay-sayers:
http://www.endangeredspecies.com/Bamboo/Text/Names/Descriptions/Ba/Bambusa/BO.html
3. Because the 50' wall is solid, I'd like the lower culms to be exposed. I like that look and don't need the screen below 6'. Given our situation (3'x50' enclosed area, zone 10, at least 25' tall, erect habit, etc.), but ignoring #1 and #2 above (our style preferences), what would you recommend as the best solution for a hardy and attractive 25+ feet tall screen? (In other words, if this was your house ...).
Thanks for your help. Rob
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wrote:

Bamboo will do the job, but it may take a while to get established. It's pretty invasive like people think it is, but it doesn't grow as fast as some people seem to think it does. If you plant enough of it to establish it in the beginning it'll fill in nicely(and fairly quickly). Some varieties of bamboo don't branch much below a certain height, so you need to make sure the variety you pick is right for your needs. There's one type of bamboo which grows wild near here(Arkansas Ozarks) which branches about 15-20 feet high, then grows to around 50 feet in height. There are a LOT of varieties of bamboo to choose from.
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The only time I have ever seen bamboo in a back yard, it had taken over. They had to hatchet paths through it to get through their yard.
Kind of like the Kudzu has done here in the south.
Kate
| wrote: | | >We have a 6' stucco wall in our back yard, and beyond that wall is a fairly | >busy street and a large retail complex (stores, banks, restaurants, etc.). | >Want to screen that view up to about 25'. I had a stucco retaining wall | >built along the outside of the 50' stucco wall to encloses a 3'x50' area to | >plant bamboo. We live in San Diego about 10 miles inland from the coast | >(zone 10 I think). Our back yard is only about 25' deep, so this bamboo will | >be right on top of us and needs to have an erect habit so the back yard | >doesn't get too claustrophobic. | > | >My questions: | > | >1. I want to mix bamboos, both for the look and so that if one type doesn't | >do well or flowers or something that the entire screen doesn't thin out. | >Would runners and clumpers do ok together together in such a restricted | >area, or is it better to go exclusively with one or the other. The clumper | >would be B. oldhamii and the runners would be Phyllostachys (vivax and henon | >and possibly a smaller plant as well)? | > | >2. We've been getting a lot of conflicting opinions from bamboo sellers on | >whether B. oldhamii should be planted in a 3' wide area. Of the six or so | >we've talked to, 3 or 4 recommended against it (two very strongly) and two | >said it would do fine (one very strongly). How much room (width) does | >oldhamii need? And if the space is smaller than optimal will the plants just | >be shorter than normal or will they just not develop at all? I've seen | >picutures of oldhamii growing as a screen along some narrow strips (see the | >Burbank, Irvine, and Long Beach photos at the link below), so I have my | >doubts about the nay-sayers: | > |

| > | >3. Because the 50' wall is solid, I'd like the lower culms to be exposed. I | >like that look and don't need the screen below 6'. Given our situation | >(3'x50' enclosed area, zone 10, at least 25' tall, erect habit, etc.), but | >ignoring #1 and #2 above (our style preferences), what would you recommend | >as the best solution for a hardy and attractive 25+ feet tall screen? (In | >other words, if this was your house ...). | | Bamboo will do the job, but it may take a while to get established. | It's pretty invasive like people think it is, but it doesn't grow as | fast as some people seem to think it does. If you plant enough of it | to establish it in the beginning it'll fill in nicely(and fairly | quickly). Some varieties of bamboo don't branch much below a certain | height, so you need to make sure the variety you pick is right for | your needs. | There's one type of bamboo which grows wild near here(Arkansas Ozarks) | which branches about 15-20 feet high, then grows to around 50 feet in | height. | There are a LOT of varieties of bamboo to choose from.
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Negative comments about bamboo usually originate from those who have never grown the plant and have no idea how to properly select or contain it. They are less than helpful.
I would avoid mixing clumping and running bamboos - the runners are very aggressive and will easily overwhelm the far less agressive clumpers. If you wish to mix, pick two or more similar clumpers or runners, but most bamboos 'take' very well in proper conditions so mixing two different forms is not really necessary.
All the bamboos you list are big, rapid growing plants, the clumpers somewhat slower to develop than the runners by nature of their growth habit. If rapid screening or hedging is your intent, go with the Phyllostachys. Either clumpers or runners will successfully fill a long, narrow space - if width is an issue, the roots and culms will spread laterally, the runners faster than the clumpers. Upright or erect growth will be dependent mostly on growing conditions - adequate sun and water. Even with planting in a stucco retaining wall, I'd use a proper bamboo containment system inserted before filling with soil and planting if you select running types. Those roots and culms are incredibly strong and it is best to be properly prepared BEFORE any potential problems may occur.
pam - gardengal

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Hi Pam -
Great information - thanks. And I agree totally with your first statement.
As for mixing runners and clumpers, one of my motivations is to save a little cash on the rhyzome barrier. For 30" wide by .060" think barrier I've seen prices from $2.75 - $4.5 per foot. To enclose my 50'x3' area would take around 110 feet, or $300 - $500 just for the material. I figured I could instead enclose 2-3 smaller areas for runners and plant clumpers in between. For example, if I had two 15'x3' areas for runners I would need about 80' of barrier vs. 110'. Well, now that I actually analyze it I would only save $100 or so. Probably not worth the hassle.
Do you have a preference between P. vivax and bambusoides? I know vivax grows faster, but from what I've read it has much thinner walls and can get damaged by high winds. Also, what would you recommend for some color variation in the culms? I'm considering P. viridis 'Robert Young' and P. bamusoides f. castillonis.
Rob
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Make the investment in the rhizome barrier - it's well worth it. Given the choices, I'd go with the bambusoides - strong plants and quite rapidly growing, all things considered. Not as familiar with vivax as it gets too big too fast for most gardens and is not really much in demand in my area. I've not grown it, but resources indicate that viridis 'Robert Young' tends to be very bare the bottom 50% of the culms - maybe not the best look for your purposes, specially if it achieves the height it's reported to achieve. For some color variation, consider bambusoides 'Castillonis Inversa', which has reverse coloring from 'Castillionis' - green culms with yellow striping. Or 'Violescens' which has green culms with purple spotting. Or if you wanted to introduce something smaller and you can find it, try P. nigra 'Boryana', also called 'tortoiseshell' bamboo as it produces culms which are randomly splotched with green, brown and purple and resembles a tortoiseshell - a smashing bamboo and one of my favorites.
pam
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