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  • Sue


When we moved here, eight years ago, we had three very small clumps of unidentified bamboo. Idiotically I only removed one - and decided that the other two were far enough away from buildings and plants to ever be a nuisance and, as a bonus, they would provide shelter from the north east wind. I suspected that the remaining clumps were of an invasive bamboo ( and almost certainly from the Phylostachys genus as, for some reason, this is extremely popular in France). And I was right.

Bamboos fall into two categories - clump forming (which can still spread if they are happy) and running. The running bamboos have shallow, fleshy (and thick) rhizomes which spread un-noticed beneath the surface of the soil for the first year or so and then BANG - the following spring they erupt above the surface with pointy shoots which can grow visibly on a daily basis swamping anything in their path. By then you have entered a vicious circle as each year the subterranean rhizomes are ferreting out more and more territory, from an ever widening base, to claim the following spring. After eight years we had a marvellous shelter belt of tall, thick bamboo but our domestic waste treatment microstation was under threat as its outlet was becoming blocked, the compost bins were about to become engulfed and ornamental trees such as a beautiful white barked birch and even a sturdy umbrella pine were becoming distorted by the competition from the bamboo. It had to go - but how?

We decided to use a digger to pull it out, making sure we also lifted as much root as possible. The roots do not run deep, reaching only about 30 cm below the soil surface so getting the plants out was relatively straightforward, but, of course, they run. To combat this we also lifted a margin of earth around the plants, removing bamboo rhizomes as we went , but we know that there will be many more, lurking there throughout the winter and waiting to erupt in the spring. In the absence of glysophate - that effective, systemic weedkiller which has been banned within the EU - we will have to patrol the territory we have re-taken (and the surrounding area) and cut off the young shoots as they poke through the ground. This will deprive the plants of the opportunity to photosynthesize (their source of food) and eventually (I hope) they will wither and die. I can't see this happening overnight.

Half of the bamboo has been removed here - you can just make out the digger to the left of the remaining clump.

The same corner of the garden after the bamboo had been removed

We can now see the outlet for the microstation, the porcherie and our severely compromised compost bins. But we will have to be vigilant if it is not to re-establish itself.

You can control running bamboos if you create an impenetrable barrier around the bamboo's root system. Because the rhizomes do not travel deep into the soil they will be blocked if the barrier is only about half a meter deep into the soil. But do this as soon as you plant them - because then you know exactly where the roots are and the little blighters do not have the chance to escape the compound you have created. As an alternative, choose a clumping bamboo - of which there are many, but be vigilant or, better still, put them in pots.

As an alternative, of course, you could always get a pet panda.......

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