Landscape architects and designers: On this page we have distilled much of the information we are repeatedly asked concerning profitability, ease of installation, methods, proportions and cost. For the landscape installers, there is a slant toward why bamboo is such a profitable alternative to other screening material. Although some information may be fundamental, you should find enough nuance to make your read worthwhile for seasoned pros also.
We found that for installers, one of your major cost concerns comes after the installation, namely return trips. You have told us that one of your most expensive days is the one you spend repairing plant material that does not survive your guarantee period. On that day, equipment time, manpower, fuel, and direct plant replacement costs can quickly destroy your project profitability.
So what might Almaville Bamboo do to help you with this issue?
All anyone has to do is drive around middle Tennessee and see rows of evergreen trees with dead spots. Old timers remember rows of pines. For the last number of years it's Arborvitaes or Leylands. Disease takes its toll on some, but there is also the issue of “The” rock which is usually just below the surface in our service area. Anybody that has tried to put a fence in the ground knows our soil is usually shallow in spots. That can wreck a planting just a few years into its growth, and then the customer has a gap or dead space.
You then have the expensive proposition of making him happy-regardless of the cause, and sometimes whether or not it is outside your stated guarantee period. If bamboo is used instead:
#1-It is almost completely pest resistant. #2- Once established, it self adjusts to drought conditions, and maybe most importantly- #3- It grows around and over shallow spots without harm. This translates to NO return trips for replacement, and no associated costs.
By all means, check our reputation. This is even more important with bamboo than it is with tree growers, as you will soon see.
A typical residential customer will look at our selection of plants and unless coached, will invariably choose plants that have the prettiest foliage and shape, because that is what he would appropriately do if buying trees. What is above ground is indicative of what is below ground in his reckoning. "What you see is what you get" is the mantra. This is NOT so with bamboo. What is below the surface is vastly more important, because that is paramount in determining future growth.
A. Soil type: While heavy clay is not the best medium for your client, it certainlyIS for us. The most important thing about what leaves this nursery is the integrity of the root ball, whether in a pot or b in b. Our heavy clay allows the ball to “stick” together as your men and ours carefully work with it. Our extra large or our timber plants are in a metal basket. The standard plants primarily used for screening and in elongated planters are balled in burlap and rely to a great degree on the texture of the soil to stay intact. If the soil in the grove is loose or gravelly, the root ball will not thrive, even if it survives. Proper propagation depends on good soil. This is partially why B. is so important.
B. Extraction: This is one of those places where reputation becomes so important. To a great degree, the purchaser must rely on the reputation of the grower to know whether the plants were properly removed from the ground. The buds on the rhizome are what cause future growth. They are very tender and can easily be broken off. That is why “flea market finds” may be alive, but not produce well. Our razor sharp 12 gauge steel shovels driven swiftly by 200+ pound workers with steel shanked boots cut crisply through the rhizomes. Picture what would happen to a smaller man bouncing up and down trying to repeatedly cut through a springy rhizome. The rhizome would be drug up and down through the soil as it is ultimately cut in two, knocking off most of the buds in the process. Technique is one reason most DIY people are not particularly successful in doing this job themselves.
C. Aftercare: Irrigation is critical before the plants leave the nursery. Within hours of being dug, all plants are either on drip emitters or overhead sprinklers. We do not allow the burlap to become a wick for the moisture inside the ball for more than a day at a time in the warm season. We keep the balls from freezing in the winter. You need to provide the same care for them until you have them in the ground.
How will we deal with your clients? As to any design work, at the customer's request occasionally we do site visits for consults relating only to the bamboo, so we don't interfere with your designs. Those costs are later deducted from the cost of plant material. We do no installation, so we do not compete with landscape installers. You should be completely comfortable sending clients to examine the various plantings, control methods and species at the nursery even if you do not have time to come with them. Please let us know in advance if you are concerned that we know you are associated with a particular client, so we don't unintentionally direct them to someone else for installation. We have a display of contractors who have left quantities of their business cards in slots provided in our work shed.
When residential customers ask how to do an installation, we refer them to the website or answer them directly. Above ground planters are easy for DIYers. But unless they are comfortable working with trenchers and dealing with underground utilities, we generally explain that there are good reasons why contractors get paid well for in ground installations. This applies particularly where barrier installation is needed. If you are not familiar with this part of the process, we have everything you need including advice on the subject. We sell barrier by the foot or discounted in 500' rolls.
How do we make plant quantity recommendations? If you already know what you want the client to use in terms of numbers of plants, please advise us. Otherwise we suggest typical plant density of :
A. 1 full sized screening plant/foot in above ground planters.
B. For in-ground, if instant screening is required for 2 story structures; we suggest ¾ plant/ linear foot of XL plants for the back row, then 1-1/2 plants/linear foot in a zigzag pattern for the front rows. The XL plants usually have to be guyed off.
C. If the client has a 2 year screening horizon, we recommend 1/3 standard screening plant/ linear foot (3 feet on center). These are the plants most landscapers request due to ease of handling, good propagation and stability. They are typically 13” b in b or #7 containers and 7-11' tall. They are very flexible and will not normally uproot in high winds or snow load (again, you won't have to go back for repair).
Planting issues: The most frequently asked question is whether the soil should be amended prior to planting. From your standpoint, the answer is “no”. If you put a 20' tall plant in loose soil, you can imagine what that will do in the first strong wind or ice storm. On the other hand, if you pack soil tightly around the burlap of a 7-11' plant, you won't have to go back to reinstall it. Be sure not to step on the root ball! Unlike a tree, you can bury this a little deeper than the root ball for more stability if necessary. Proper mulching and a few earthworms will accomplish virtually the same thing as soil amendment next year, allowing the rhizomes to take hold and support the plant beautifully. Mulch- Another place where bamboo is different from a tree. There is no bark, and the skin has a silica impregnated tough outer layer. You can bring the mulch up to the plant without concern of disease. 5-6 inches of any mulch will do. Grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, pine straw- most anything except hot manure. You want NO nitrogen on these plants for 4-5 months. You need thick mulch to retain consistent soil moisture and temperatures for the first year or so. If the plants are going into an area which holds water for more than a day, you need to either change species or better yet, build a berm to get it started
If the client is an aggressive gardener, you can help them get extremely creative, and can modify both horizontally and vertically on an annual basis. Four dramatically different shapes of the same species obtained by grooming can be seen in the video on our "Containers" page. From a simple grove, you can progress to an elaborate setting. Check out Charles Mann Photography's bamboo in Kyoto Gardens for an example of what your client could have you create over several years. This photo is of a drastically thinned grove probably of “Robert Young” with fabulous under-plantings and sculpting.
What equipment will I need to plant these?
Most screening plants will be a bit irregular in shape since they are hand dug and will be roughly 13” diameter and about one foot deep. XL screening plants and most “Standard” timber species are dug with a 30 degree tree spade set at 18 inches- b in b in steel wire baskets. 2” caliber timber species are set at 20”. The auger on your skid steer will make short work. However, the standard screening plant holes are usually small enough to be hand dug.
Barrier- If a barrier is being installed, the trench should be 24” deep where possible. The barrier is on 30” rolls, so this would leave 3” exposed assuming 3” of mulch (total 6”).
This is important so that rhizomes don't “skip” over the top of the barrier. If this is a one sided perimeter planting, that is all that is needed. If it is a complete enclosure, we have strapping kits available to clamp the overlapping ends. If you are going to have to rent a trencher to install barrier, an articulating Dingo trencher which allows an almost vertical digging bar can be used to dig the holes, too.
Barrier is cut to length at your specifications at pickup time, or will be precut if you have a direct billed account with us or prepaid. 500' rolls are discounted. Bamboo is similar to Liriope in its ability to penetrate flexible material such as EPDM or soft sided swimming pools, but not this 60 mil HDPE.
Maintenance contracts: Bamboo can be a very low maintenance planting for you, but there are ways to suggest an annual checkup if you aren't already seeing the client for other maintenance programs. Fertilizing is optional, but if the client doesn't start with a complete screen, and instead is allowing it to gradually grow together, then fertilizing will speed that up. Don't remove even ugly new growth in that case, and do not dig any material from the grove for at least 4 years unless you are trying to reduce propagation. If the planting is to be set at a specific height like a hedge, you will want to trim it once a year after the shoots have exceeded the desired height, but before they have hardened off. Examples can be seen on our videos or ask us at the nursery.
Let us help you. Please tell us what we can do to make your task easier or more profitable. As a family owned nursery, we want to work to earn your loyalty.
For the Professional