Bamboo for your yard and home in Portland, OR

A grove of thin green and yellow bamboo

Hoyt Arboretum’s bamboo garden is great for inspiration. | Photos via Evan Bean

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Did you know bamboo is actually a type of grass? And much like your lawn, it’s one of the fastest growing plants in the world — certain species can add 36 inches in 24 hours. This, combined with its tolerance for subpar soil, makes it a great candidate for afforestation, carbon sequestration, and climate change mitigation. It’s green, you see.

But if you are bamboozled when it comes to correctly planting it in your yard or incorporating it into your home, we’re here to help.

Bamboo rhizomes spread laterally before growing vertically

Bamboo uses rhizomes to grow. | Photo via Evan Bean

Bamboo in the yard
There are two basic types of bamboo seen in Portland, with further subcategories available.

Running bamboos are typically what people picture first, and much like their classification suggests, these varieties spread aggressively if not contained properly. During the winter, when most plants are dormant, they shoot out underground rhizomes 4-6 inches beneath the surface and sometimes as far as 10 ft away, before sprouting upward in the spring.

Clumping bamboos tend to be shorter, bushier, and much less liable to get out of control, as new culms form in a U shape next to the original plant.

But as long as you take the right steps when planting and maintaining running bamboo, like implementing an HDPE barrier + root pruning, there’s little risk. Similar measures should be taken if growing bamboo in containers.

If you still have questions, lean on local experts. North Plains’ Bamboo Garden, Beaverton’s Bamboo Oasis, and Portland Nursery are all well-equipped to help you responsibly spruce up your outdoor spaces.

Two serving trays made with bamboo

We love warm wood accents. | Photo via @instylehomedesigns

Bamboo in the home

Now to head indoors. Bamboo as a building material is shifting the way people think about renewable resources. It is central to the “Bali” episode of “Home” on Apple TV+ — truly, this series is worth the free trial — and can play a pivotal role in your own residence too.

There’s no better place to start this exploration than at Bamboo Revolution, whose showroom overlaps with Coava Coffee Roasters on Southeast Grand Avenue. Its products range from custom countertops and flooring to cutting boards and serving trays.

The company’s roots reach all the way to Avery Island, Louisiana, of Tabasco fame. In 2009, Bamboo Revolution employees joined Dain Sansome, owner of Albany-based Bamboo Valley, to visit the site and help restore the historic bamboo groves in the bayou; in return, they were able to transport live plants back to the Willamette Valley. Since then, Bamboo Revolution has been pushing forward in its mission to reinvigorate Oregon’s timber industry.

More local options are on hand. Northwest Bamboo Inc. provides quality bamboo lumber + plywood, and Bamboo Craftsman offers timbers that can be used for a variety of design needs, from chicken coops to staircases.

So next time you run into the same old stale bamboo stigma, be like a panda and give it a chance.

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