John Naka and Bamboo

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John Naka and Bamboo

Post  DougB on Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:47 pm

I was recently paging through Naka's 2nd book and noticed that he devoted several pages to bamboo. He even listed several species that were good for bonsai. I was wondering if anyone had bamboo bonsai, the species and source for young plants.

DougB
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this lengthy post is what happens when one is avoiding mowing the lawn.

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:22 pm

I have been growing bamboo for many years as a landscape plant. I have 7 or so species that are winter hardy north of Chicago. There are a lot of people growing bamboo in the US, and I regularly see dwarf varieties used as accent plants at the August show of the Midwest Bonsai Society at Chicago Botanic Garden. Much less frequently, I've seen one of the larger species displayed as the focal point of the display. Jack Douthitt has a nice round of roughly 3 foot tall black bamboo that he occasionally shows.

If you are looking for the species that John Naka listed in his book, you will have trouble because many of the names have changed and some of the names he used are the Japanese names without the scientific name. To find the current names for the species mentioned go to my favorite site, Bamboo web http://www.bambooweb.info/ or to the American Bamboo Society http://www.bamboo.org/index.php and look for the list of bamboo names. They have a fairly complete table listing the current scientific name for a bamboo followed by obsolete scientific names then the Japanese name, its Kanji, then the Chinese name and characters, then often Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, etc. It is an exhaustive list, quite valuable. There are also source lists, with vendors in both the USA, Europe, Australia, and other world wide sources. Moving bamboo across international borders is not easy, there are long quarantine requirements due to the fact bamboo can be a vector for several diseases that affect rice and other grains, so pick a vendor that is in your own country, especially when browsing Ebay.

I occasionally tried bamboo in pots, as accent planting or a main focal point. One point to be aware of. If planted in a pot, bamboo will need some winter protection. The rhizomes will not tolerate freeze - thaw cycling. Hardy bamboos need a winter dormancy to grow well. Tropical bamboos can be used if you have the greenhouse space to handle them in winter.

This year I am trying again the technique from Naka's book of peeling the culm sheaths to dwarf a culm (cane) that otherwise would be quite large. It works, but during the month or so that the bamboo shoot is growing, you absolutely must check the plant every day, or it will get away from you and the internode spacing will become uneven. Weather will cause it to grow faster or slower, so sometimes you pull a sheath off daily, sometimes you wait 3 days. Turning out a large tray planting with many culms can be every bit as demanding of time as any maple, juniper or pine. In many ways this technique resembles the bud sheath removal sometimes done on Shohin maples and other deciduous trees, same basic idea. The extra exposure to the elements of the new buds slows the growth. Remember with bamboo the key structure you are growing is a rhizome structure, the culms (canes) up top are temporary, most won't last any longer than 7 years, and you should judiciously remove any culms that don't fit the design you are going for.

Dwarf bamboos can be used without the need to pull culm sheaths as they look reasonably proportionate in a pot. As the rhizome mass becomes more dense the leaves will naturally reduce some in size. Winter hardy in my zone dwarfs I have used and work well are Pleioblastus viridistriata and Sasaella masamuniana albomarginata. Any of the plain green leaf varieties of Pleioblastus will work. All mature reasonably small. The Sasaella can have very large leaves and vigorous growth to 5 feet, especially right after being divided and it is establishing in fresh fertile soils. But once the rhizome mass matures it will get smaller, and the leaves will reduce nicely.

Everyone wants black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra. This species is not the easiest to work with. It needs a cool winter rest, and it is not hardy in the ground much north of Saint Louis MO, and not hardy in a pot much north of Memphis. So it needs good winter protection, but should not be grown as a tropical. Spring growth is weak without the cold dormancy. The culms (canes) can take up to 3 years to turn black. Therefore a tray planting will not have the 'black bamboo' effect every year. To show it at its best you have to let a planting mature for about 5 years, then cut out all the culms that have not turned black yet before the show. So it is not easy to keep it looking 'good', it is not likely to be in show condition year after year.

A suggestion to use instead of Phyllostachys nigra would be Chimonobambusa marmorea, Marbled bamboo. It is a semi-dwarf, matures at about 6 feet, the culms start out mottled, but eventually turn a nearly solid, fairly dark purple. With morning sun new culms will be a brilliant red for a few weeks. The species prefers bright shade, rather than full sun. Because it is a shade lover it will survive better than many bamboos indoors. It is only hardy to zone 8, so should be treated as a subtropical. If you have room to winter it indoors or a greenhouse, this is a good species to use.

Right now I am using the culm sheath pulling method on Phyllostachys atrovaginata. So far so good. Just one culm receiving the treatment in this new tray planting. P. atrovaginata has a relatively wide culm diameter relative to its height when grown in the ground. It is a plain green culm species. In the ground in zone 5 it can do about 15 feet tall. In a warmer zone I believe the maximum is about 30 to 40 feet. The spring shoots are delicious, I love harvesting some for the vegetable serving for dinner in spring. Wood is strong and useful for craft projects. This winter it experienced -17 F (-27 C) in an exposed to the west location. All culms died to ground level but I had a strong flush of new spring shoots. It looks like it will recover with no loss of average height of the culms. Very winter hardy. This was the first winter to have culm die back in over 10 years. Normally it stays evergreen.

Hope this helps, here are some images.

Phyllostachys atrovaginata
May 14, 2014


atrovaginata 30 days later June 14, 2014. Note partially peeled culm sheath. The internodes are shortened by the peeling off of the sheaths.


This is Plieoblastus viridi-striata, a really nice and very hardy dwarf. Very fresh looking when it first emerges. By the end of summer the variegation fades to a soft light green.



Sasaella masamuniana albomarginata - new slab planting, the leaves will be smaller in future years, I love the bold variegation, and the color holds well all year.


part of what became dinner, bamboo is delicious, when ever shoots escape their confinement, this is their fate.

Leo Schordje
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  DougB on Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:50 pm

Thanks Leo for an exceptional response. This will be printed so I can refer to it in the future.

DougB
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Andre Beaurain on Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:11 pm

I didnt realize that I was lucky to grow this...

I will definately try the sheath pulling method.  Thanks Leo for that.

What I do to prevent it from growing to big is, never fertilize with pellets in spring.  I also withheld water when the new shoots emerge.  They grow to full length in two days.

You can still see last years canes is still turning black.  Only halfway through winter.  Mine only take one winter to turn black.

Now seven years in this pot..



Love and light

Andre Beaurain
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Bruce Winter on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:56 pm

Leo Schordje wrote:

This year I am trying again the technique from Naka's book of peeling the culm sheaths to dwarf a culm (cane) that otherwise would be quite large. It works, but during the month or so that the bamboo shoot is growing, you absolutely must check the plant every day, or it will get away from you and the internode spacing will become uneven. Weather will cause it to grow faster or slower, so sometimes you pull a sheath off daily, sometimes you wait 3 days. Turning out a large tray planting with many culms can be every bit as demanding of time as any maple, juniper or pine. In many ways this technique resembles the bud sheath removal sometimes done on Shohin maples and other deciduous trees, same basic idea. The extra exposure to the elements of the new buds slows the growth. Remember with bamboo the key structure you are growing is a rhizome structure, the culms (canes) up top are temporary, most won't last any longer than 7 years, and you should judiciously remove any culms that don't fit the design you are going for.

Everyone wants black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra. This species is not the easiest to work with. It needs a cool winter rest, and it is not hardy in the ground much north of Saint Louis MO, and not hardy in a pot much north of Memphis. So it needs good winter protection, but should not be grown as a tropical. Spring growth is weak without the cold dormancy. The culms (canes) can take up to 3 years to turn black. Therefore a tray planting will not have the 'black bamboo' effect every year. To show it at its best you have to let a planting mature for about 5 years, then cut out all the culms that have not turned black yet before the show. So it is not easy to keep it looking 'good', it is not likely to be in show condition year after year.


Phyllostachys atrovaginata
May 14, 2014


atrovaginata 30 days later June 14, 2014. Note partially peeled culm sheath. The internodes are shortened by the peeling off of the sheaths.


This is Plieoblastus viridi-striata, a really nice and very hardy dwarf. Very fresh looking when it first emerges. By the end of summer the variegation fades to a soft light green.



Sasaella masamuniana albomarginata - new slab planting, the leaves will be smaller in future years, I love the bold variegation, and the color holds well all year.


part of what became dinner, bamboo is delicious, when ever shoots escape their confinement, this is their fate.
And this is why we almost never see a convincing bamboo grove bonsai.  Wink 
I've seen one in my 35 years in bonsai.
I would avoid feeding except a little in winter. And removing it from the pot, shaking the soil off and letting it sit for a while helps inhibit growth.
I was a charter member of ABS on the left coast back when bamboo crazies were paying outrageous amount for the latest rare specimens brought back by plant hunters poking around in remote corners of the world.
Old bambu adage: The first year it sleeps
                                The second year it creeps
                                The third year it leaps

Bruce Winter
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:34 am

Thanks Bruce,
I was 27 when I planted my first bamboo grove, I'm now 59, and every time I have to do any digging as maintenance of this grove I am cursing myself for ever planting it. In the ground it is a high maintenance plant. But when the sun shines through the bamboo and casts shadows on the wall in my living room, or the sound of bamboo rattling in a breeze, or other sudden moments when its beauty just knocks you over, I really love it.

If you were a charter ABS member, you understand the addiction. The crazies are still paying outrageous sums for bamboo species with only minute differences from the hundred or so that are already here. Thankfully I matured to the point where I am very happy with the 7 species I have. If I were to start over, I might stop at 4 or 5. Gotta have a dark green culm, one with a bright yellow culm, and a Sasa or Indocalmus (but both are not necessary) for having one with big, long, wide tropical looking leaves. And then a couple variegated dwarfs for ground cover. That's it, I'm satisfied. Don't need to have one of absolutely every kind. And I have accepted the fact that without resorting to a greenhouse in the north suburbs of Chicago, I will not be able to get any bamboo to grow taller than about 20 feet. I do wish P. nigra, black bamboo was hardy in the ground here, but unfortunately it is not reliably hardy north of zone 7. (yes, it might work in warmest parts of zone 6, Saint Louis seems the northern limit).

When I preach the virtues of bamboo as a landscape plant, most of my time is spent on discussing rhizome barriers. I wish I had believed in them when I first started. I'm a true believer in "good barriers make good bamboo" now. Though it is not the devil weed some make it out to be. If you neglect maintenance for 5 years, you can suddenly be surprised at just how far it can spread. But repeated applications of herbicide do work.

Thanks


Leo Schordje
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fertilizing bamboo as bonsai

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:45 am

For fertilizer, I think the best strategy is as one would do for single growth flush pines, like Japanese white pine. No fertilizer when it comes out of winter dormancy, withhold fertilizer until after the spring flush of culms is up and has matured. Then middle to late summer, you fertilize to make sure you get a nice strong buds for shoots the next year. No need to starve them, if you don't fertilize them enough, they can end up looking chlorotic, and sickly yellow bamboo is not show worthy. You want as large a diameter culm as you can get near the base, if you without fertilizer completely, you will get very thin grassy culms.

Once you have an established clump of rhizomes in a pot, you let the spring flush of shoots come up, pick the 3, 5 or 7 culms you are going to let develop. Do the culm sheath pulling on those selected culms. Let all the culms that sprouted mature, then as soon as the "keepers' have leafed out and hardened off so there will be no further elongation of internodes, cut out all the extra culms at or below ground level. This keeps the planting looking like a grove, more like a landscape planting rather than a messy bunch of grass.

That is my current strategy. I am still a novice at bamboo bonsai. I think drying them out hard, or unpotting them and leaving them dry can leave you with a less than healthy looking planting if you exceed the bamboo's tolerance of that sort of treatment. But we will see. Perhaps in a couple years I will be forced by frustration to try those extreme measures.

It is a lot of work for the month or so that bamboo is sending up its shoots.

Leo Schordje
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:58 am

Andre Beaurain wrote:I didnt realize that I was lucky to grow this...
I will definately try the sheath pulling method.  Thanks Leo for that.
What I do to prevent it from growing to big is, never fertilize with pellets in spring.  I also withheld water when the new shoots emerge.  They grow to full length in two days.
You can still see last years canes is still turning black.  Only halfway through winter.  Mine only take one winter to turn black.
Now seven years in this pot..



Love and light

Andre, I love your black bamboo. You have done marvelous job. Excellent.

Yes, Phyllostachys nigra, black bamboo can turn black the first season, in some climates it does go black very quickly. Some say that the more sun you give it the quicker it turns black. I often have a few culms that just stay green for a couple years. It is hit and miss for me.

Do you have trouble with chlorosis, the leaves bleaching to yellow? I really have to stay on top of fertilizer, too little and my black bamboo looks like hell. Because I want fat culms, I do fertilize late summer and fall.

With your planting I really like the way you have a cluster of culms rising from a mounded point. If your planting were mine, I would eliminate maybe 3 or 4 of the smaller culms you have, I'd keep the count around 7, each visually serving somewhat like a stand in for a tree in a forest planting. I would keep one or two of the smaller ones, and keep the cluster of the largest ones. More space between culms will give more the feel of an open grove of giant timber bamboo, or the change from the cluster clumped together, then the wider spaced, and progressively smaller culms, will give the feeling of depth and distance.

But I really do like your planting as it. Seven years in that pot - that is great. Keep it going.  - Leo

Leo Schordje
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Bruce Winter on Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:50 am

Leo.......My bamboo digging days are over, I hire young bucks in the neighborhood. But the easiest way for me is kicking over unwanted shoots. To thin a clump I use a cordless recipricating saw with a pruning blade. Just today I cut 2 five inch culms that were about 60'tall and let them fall into the forest. High drama!
But when the culms clack in the wind...oh my, there's nothing like it.

Bruce Winter
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:34 pm

Actually I personally don't use herbicides on my property, I eat the out of bound shoots if I catch them soon enough. I kick or cut if they are too tall and tough (mature) to eat.

But I mention herbicides, because as a last resort, most people who are skeptical of the possible uses of bamboo relax and try it once they know herbicides work. My brother - in - law only relaxed about my sister's bamboo planting when he saw that the herbicides do work. My sister has a 40 acre plot, so she has room to let bamboo do what it can do so well. She has several plantings that can spread out to develop and mature. Her black bamboo and Phyllo viridis 'Robert Young plantings are truly spectacular, especially after me an the nephew get in there and do the maintenance.

The arts and crafts projects are limitless, once you have enough bamboo to want to be thinning it out.

I hope more people will try training the larger species as bonsai. I do want to start a clump of Phyllostachys aureosulcata "Harbin Inversa" or forma aureocaulis sometime this summer. Next to black bamboo, these are two of the most spectacular bamboos, and fully hardy this far north. Phyllostachys viridis 'Robert Young' is probably a better bamboo than P. vivax and Bambusa vulgaris vittata for bonsai culture if one wants to dwarf one of the yellow culm giant bamboos. But P. nigra and P. vivax and P. viridis are not quite hardy in the ground at my house, so if I use them I have to plan for winter storage.

Leo Schordje
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Bruce Winter on Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:32 am

I had a nice stand of Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin' - Lumpy Noodle going until I found out it dosen't "belly" at altitude. I'm at 4,000 feet. Much more consistant swelling than Buddha belly.

And sure, eating the shoots is a good thing.

Bruce Winter
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Re: John Naka and Bamboo

Post  Andre Beaurain on Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:10 am

Leo thank you so much for your kind and informing words.

This forest of mine was neglected, but I will bring it up to standard now.

I only have Black bamboo growing in the garden...and yes I also have a moment of regret when the culms pop out on the patio.. But then everytime I walk through them I stand in awe, and the way they all sway together in the wind.
Luckily we harvest the areas where I dont want it to grow to sell in the Nursery..... but shes a monster that cannot be contained....

Love and light

Andre Beaurain
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