Phyllostachys Nigra

discovering new kinds of bamboo and other garden musings
by Rickie Lee Jones
by Rickie Lee Jones

An artist and avid gardener...if you are at all familiar all with Rickie Lee Jones and her music you know about her passion for justice and for peace.

Rickie has a website called Furniture for the People in which she supports many causes and features links related to her political and outdoor interests. She has several pages on her website dedicated to gardening that you will enjoy as well.

October 23, 2005

I have lately been studying bamboo and I have come upon three species which I think are especially lovely. The first is the black stemmed bamboo (phyllostachys nigra) which is becoming very popular. I had tried to grow it twice before in vain, one plant I carried from California in a pot up to Washington. It had not done great in California, and then it died in Washington. I planted it in a shady spot, I thought it wanted shade (well actually it got some sun but the sun didn't shine much up there). I tried to save it but it died along with most of the other things I planted in that location on the banks of the Puget Sound. I did have luck up there with tiny saffron, and a great rose I had transported from house to house for ten years, and the daffodils.

Other things simply didn't want to die any more than they wanted to grow. On the other hand, I did have very good luck in the garden I created in front of the house. I added soil for days, cut out vines and an old established camellia (left two) and a small tree that was not about to leave. I discovered that the septic system was routed around there, so I couldn't do too much digging. I made a fabulous English garden, and in spring and summer what had been a drab and terrible bunch of bark under some uninterested camellias became a welcoming and bright place. The camellias I cut into little trees, with round tops and the shape added formality and then when flowers came they were really appreciated. Then I let it grow wild into shapes, and it was like Charlie Parker out there, all precision gone a bit nutty. I had many flowers, Forget Me Nots (Cynoglossum amabile) blanketed the ground, they are great and they spread along with a myriad of tiny flowers, and Irish bells which never grew and many bulbs, iris, tea rose, and wisteria on a homemade arbor of bent and twisted branches.

There was, as well, a birdbath that the birds really used a lot, and a bird feeder which was the source of much activity. I would sit there in the mornings and watch the birds come to my feeder. Woodpecker and robin, finch and chickadees, it was wonderful buying little books and learning the names of the visitors at my restaurants. Giant sunflowers grew from the seeds that would spill out of the feeder. They liked the bird fertilizer, and that was a good self-perpetuating garden. The slugs, however, were devastating, and then the gofer came. I like all of the animals, but I understand now the fight that goes on between humankind and animal for survival. While this wasn't exactly (life and death) survival, it was a battle for what I planted, to keep it from being destroyed by some critters. I soon began to seek out the means to kill off the intruders. Forget about it.

This is the second house I have moved from partly because of gofers and moles (seriously). And (contrary to what you might read) no one really seems to know how to get rid of them. We have computer chips that contain obscure information on the mineral content of distant stars and we still are unable to find a reliable way to get rid of a mole digging a hole in our own back yard.

Fargesia rufa

Available Spring ’04. A new kind of bamboo that I am planting in my yard. It is described as "a very hardy clumping bamboo with orange-red culm (cane) sheaths." The overall impression is green and red. It is also unusual in that it is another Fargesia tolerant of sun. It comes in a six-inch pot and sells for approximately $75.00. I bought my fargesia rufa from Bamboo Headquarters in San Diego.

Suggestions Please

I invite our readers to send in any and all ideas about mole prevention and effective elimination -how to drive them away or kill them! Poison gas, poison food, none of it worked and I was always afraid I might harm some other animal. Hit them over the head with my shovel? I mean, that movie Caddy Shack is exactly what gardening can become! I would not mind a hole or two, but these pests undermine the sanctity of the American way. They burrow deep into the fabric of western imperialism! They eat the rose roots and the whole ground caves in. They come when the garden is in her splendor, too. I've heard they are attracted to the water. What isn't?

I've decided to begin to reconstruct some of the lovely garden in my back yard. It is a bit eclectic now, some of its plants drought tolerant and others loving shade. I have brought in more tropical plants, with a few Northwestern ideas, such as a hydrangea or two. I have calla lily, giant bird of paradise, and a Japanese maple in red, purple and yellow. I have added the forest loving and sensual hellebore, as well as grasses, lambs ear, and many which seem especially attractive to bugs and slugs. One plant has been out there fighting for survival, gone and back more than once now. There are the exotic as well, passion flower, protea, a fig tree, an orange, lemon and miniature lemon, a euphorbia which is doing rather well, a lavender bush (or four actually) and many others I do not know the names of. There's an Oleander in a lovely color, but I did not plant it and it will not go well with my new idea.

On the TO DO List:

Two things: I would like to donate some of the plants I am taking out of the garden. I am wondering if there is a space in the city for them, or someone who would like to beautify their life and garden with some of these plants? Perhaps there is a park, or maybe we at Furniture for the People could find a corner of the city that could use a little park. I have a fabulous child's swing set as well, and I would like to donate it, (it has a slide) along with the plants. We could really beautify a child play center or some such place. So you teachers out there, or anyone, contact me if you have an idea. You could help facilitate it, and make this world a more green, more happy place.

for more essential bamboo information visit:


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row