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Bamboo For The Garden - Good Or Bad?

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

We all know that China is famous for its giant pandas, but it is also renowned for the panda’s favourite food, bamboo. And bamboo has become very popular in the UK for use in the garden; taller bamboo can make an excellent screen to give you some privacy from the neighbours. Or instead of planting it, you can have a fence made with bamboo poles - and you can also get some attractive bamboo garden furniture.

Bamboo is a cost-effective resource and it is also eco-friendly. It is the fastest-growing plant in the world and has great strength and durability. However, if you are thinking about planting bamboo in your garden, there are some points you should keep in mind:

- Bamboo is best planted in the spring

- Bamboo likes a moist environment

- Clumping bamboo is great if you are short on space

- It should be pruned every year

Some people are worried about planting bamboo in their garden as they have heard stories that the roots will spread out like mad and take over the garden unless they plant it in some sort of restraint (like a concrete bunker or a trench lined with a heavy plastic sheeting) to prevent the shoots from spreading. Or adopt some hungry pandas! This type of invasive variety is called ‘running’ bamboo. The solution to avoid this problem would be to obtain bamboo that is clump-forming as this type behaves reasonably well. (The running variety can quickly send up shoots a few feet away from the plant.) If you choose a hardy, clump-forming bamboo, as it is non-invasive, it shouldn’t travel even if planted directly into the ground. (If you are curious about the bamboo flowering, you are in for a long wait – they only flower every 60 to 125 years – and then they seed and usually die. So bamboos usually only flower once in a lifetime.)

On the other side of the fence, here are some reasons not to plant bamboo:

If the incorrect type of bamboo is planted directly into the ground, it can spread into neighbouring property. The trouble is that bamboo grows quickly and spreads as it grows and it tends to ignore fences and boundary lines, so you could end up having a war with your neighbours. If your bamboo does any damage to their property, you could be liable for the cost of this plus the cost of removing it from their property. Even if you plant your bamboo in the garden in a strong container, you may get escaping shoots.

And should you decide you no longer wish to keep the bamboo, it can take a very long (and exhausting) time to remove it all. You would do best to get expert help with the removal and hire a professional landscaper so you can be sure that all elements of the bamboo have been removed to prevent it coming insidiously back.

So basically, it’s probably best to look very carefully at the pros and cons before deciding to plant bamboo in your garden. It can add character and privacy to your garden and be a real pleasure to look at… if it’s done correctly.

(Photos of bamboo fencing by Bamboo Import Europe)

Written by Leslie Chetland

25th March 2019

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