ALL BAMBOOS OF ONE SPECIES,
the story goes, flower at the same time and then promptly die. You may have been a witness. It certainly happened here, 15 years ago, when our three clumps of the common Fargesia nitida blossomed. Tiny as each flower is, they transform the plant, dying it smoky purple and freighting each culm with tiny
dangling wheat-like seeds that arc it almost to the ground. Within six months all three were dead, and gardeners far and near reported the same – with feeling: digging out the remains of clumps five feet across was no joke. Mysteriously, replacements were available. I should of course have asked the nursery how and whence, since
obviously not all fargesias had perished. For reproductive purposes the flowering seems a great waste of effort: the millions of seeds we must have had produced only one seedling, which to this day is
barely waist-high. My replacement plants, mean while, have flourished, grown, and to my horror, this spring flowered again. 15 years is surely far
too short a lifetime for a bamboo.
This time, though, I cut out the flowering shoots just as they reached the low-bowing stage and gave the depleted clumps a feast of food and water. That was in April. To my delight the few
remaining shoots have put out new leaves: recovery seems possible. And just in case, I have planted a clump of the near-related (and perhaps even more beautiful) Fargesia murielae.