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bamboo in containers for summer shade?  RSS feed

 
Steven Kovacs
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Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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I'm in zone 5, about latitude 42 N, in a wet climate (40" snow, 40" rain).  We have a two story house with a fair number of windows on the south side, which is great in the winter ... but it tends to overheat in the summer.  I'd like to shade the southern side.  Unfortunately we only have 2-4' of space between the southern side of the house and the driveway, and the driveway extends to the property line further south.  So there isn't room for planting deciduous trees.  Awnings might work but would be tricky (we have angled bay windows, and the second floor windows end just below the narrow eaves, so there isn't really anywhere to put awnings there).  We can't excavate to put arbor / pergola foundations in next to the house, because the gas line runs between the house and the driveway.

So... I wondered if perhaps I could plant bamboo in containers (to contain the rhizomes, and to allow for moving if the gas line needs to be serviced) and chop them down every fall.  Would that work?  What types of bamboo might work for my conditions?  Are there other tall, fast-growing plants that would work?  I tried giant sunflowers (supposed to get 12'+ tall) but in this cold wet spring they took a long time to get going and are only about 3' tall so far.  I'm leery of vines because I don't want moisture against the house, and don't want them finding their way under the siding.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Bamboo in containers works very well as long as the containers are large enough for the species planted (most are 18" deep or more)
There is no real need to chop them down in the fall.

You want a clumping variety and the best cane size is in the 1.5 -2 inch diameter range.

These species do really well in 2 foot deep by 2 foot wide containers, standard round containers will also work well.
Clumping species are more rhizome free than running bamboo species which makes them far more container friendly for the grower.

As with any plant, the more space you give the roots to grow, the better the plant will grow. 

If you are concerned with needing to move the container, making a dolly for that planter is a good idea, rolling is always easier than dragging.

Redhawk
 
Steven Kovacs
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Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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Thanks Bryant!

What would you suggest for keeping the bamboo from rubbing up against the house?  Horizontal strings between vertical posts near the house?  I don't want to create a vermin or moisture issue with plants contacting the siding.

I doubt we'd have to move the containers more than every several years at most, but it would be nice to have a way to do it without destroying the containers or toppling the bamboo.  Keeping them from falling over in a strong wind is more important though.

I'd want to cut the bamboo down because the stalks would cast too much shade in the winter.

Also - can bamboo stand up to full summer sun?
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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If you have the planter set about a foot from the exterior wall it should not damage the house. If you find it does hit in a wind then something like 1/4" manila rope would be a good choice or even nylon or polyrope, I just prefer the natural fibers since they are soft and will abrade instead of chew into a house siding.
If you need to cut it back, cut on a slant and try to make it steep enough of a slant that any rain or snow will be able to get out above a node so you don't have a bamboo cup holding water. I've even cut bamboo off then drilled holes just above the highest intact node so water wouldn't pool.
For that frequency of moving I would just shove them when necessary or if needed at that time you can get poly sheeting which will help slide them to help save your back.

BTW if you have enough room there are awesome "timber" bamboo species that grow 4-5 inches in diameter, these would give you a new building material when you cut them off for the winter.

Redhawk
 
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