Cleaning Bamboo

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘spectabilis’

It is always good to have your approach or views challenged and sometimes those challenges creep up on you unexpectedly. This weekend, having been encouraged out into the garden to take some photos for my Six on Saturday post I found myself pottering around for an hour accompanied by the under-gardener.

One of the jobs I wanted to tackle was trimming the stems of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ or what I call the Zig-Zag bamboo. It’s a practice I adopted a couple of years back so that the wonderful golden zig-zag stems of the bamboo are showcased.  It’s a fiddly job and best done in the winter as the new shoots start to appear along the stems; if you catch the new shoots early enough you can reduce the amount of knobbly bits and have cleaner stems.  I have to admit it’s quite a satisfying job and ideal for a cold day when the ground is too cold for digging or planting.  After a bit of work you can clearly see a result for your work.

I also remove the leaves from hellebores  and cut back epimediums (not the Japanese ones) in January in order to allow the flowers to show.  Of course in nature this doesn’t happen and it is purely a human intervention in order to show off a plant.  Interestingly, I was surprised some time ago to discover that some gardeners remove the flowers from hostas as they grow the hostas for the leaves and they felt the flowers compromised the effect and I have always smiled at those who pressure wash the stems of birch in the winter to show off the white bark. So there is no consistently in my approach.

While I was snipping away at the bamboo stems and admiring the sea of honesty foliage growing around the bamboo I started to wonder where the idea of removing the shoots had come from and given how much tidying up I had to do in the garden why was I spending time undertaking a purely cosmetic task.  My questioning continued when one of the commentators on my last post described the joy of hellebores with the flowers hidden amongst the leaves and this really got me thinking.

I suppose it comes down to what effect you want to achieve in your garden and what is more important to you.  Do you grow the plants to focus on one particular element: flowers, stems, bark, leaves? Or do you grow the plants to create an overall impact? Or, like me, do you have a more random approach picking out those plants which are maybe more important to you or actually those you can see best from the living room window!

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Stephens says:

    When it comes to the garden, the minute someone starts a sentence with “You should do …” I’m on the defensive. There is no rule book, especially when the rule is about something entirely aesthetic. As it happens, I trim and thin my bamboo because I prefer the way it looks too but if someone came along and told me its what must be done I’d probably leave it untrimmed for a couple of years.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      I’m so with you on this. I have a stubborn perverse streak so the more I’m told I should do something, or it’s good for me, the more likely I am to do the opposite

  2. If something looks ugly (yellowing old hellebore foliage, for example), I clean it up. As you say, there’s enough to do in a garden that simply being told one should do something isn’t good enough. There has to be a personal reason. If I thought the hellebores look fine as they are, I’d leave them alone.

  3. I am cutting my Hellebores and Epimediums also. I see little sprouts of color.

  4. I’m a ‘bung it all in and see what happens’ gardener. When I did plant a small bamboo, it went on the rampage and had to be removed. I might try some in a large pot or two as I love the sound they make when the wind rustles the stems. Any suggestions for tall, delicate and maybe colourful stems – as temporary screening for privacy?

  5. I think it depends on what you enjoy about gardening!

  6. Eddi Reid says:

    Does the bamboo cut your hands Helen. I believe some of them can be sharp – I had a big clump at one time (I moved) and was a little nervous about trimming for that reason. Otherwise, I just do what I feel looks right with all my plants.

  7. Your post made me smile Helen. I think that I share that same ‘stubborn perverse streak” 🙂 I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the comment “If I were you I would …..” at the allotment and always from the lips of male plot holders. The under-gardener appears to be digging her heels in too. Fabulous eyes.

  8. djdfr says:

    What one sees from the window is important, especially in this season, this climate.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      I totally agree, if it looks nice it encourages to stray a little further into the garden

  9. tonytomeo says:

    Cutting the old canes out of established colonies of bamboo can be quite a chore. We grew a few species of bamboo back in the mid 1990s for another nursery closer to Watsonville, but got left with all the bamboo that we could not sell or grow properly. What a mess!

  10. bittster says:

    It’s these little fiddly tasks that I like the most. To me they’re just an excuse to spend more time in the garden without feeling guilty for all the bigger tasks you’re conveniently ignoring!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Good attitude, I agree I can fiddle away and ignore the mess just to one side. It is very rewarding

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