The Great Leach Garden Bamboo Mystery

In our August Garden Journal entry, we are focusing on the garden’s bamboo.

“Wait a minute,” you say, “bamboo aren’t native to this area. Why are they in Leach Garden?”

​John Leach had a love for bamboo, and so you will find these bamboo (and one that is easily mistaken for one) in various places around the garden. One of them remains a mystery to us – even the garden’s records only list the plant as “Bamboo.” Can you identify it?

Botanic name: Phyllostachys aurea
Common name: fishpole bamboo
Family: Poaceae

You will find this bamboo in several parts of the garden, and yes it has to be kept under strict control because it tends toward invasiveness.  The knotty-looking canes sprout foliage much lower to the ground than many other bamboo, which later turns yellow. It is a cold-hardy plant, and therefore does fine in the Pacific Northwest valley climate.

Botanic name: ​Phyllostachys nigra
Common name: black bamboo
Family: Poaceae

Another tall member of the Poacae family that can get up to 30’ tall.  It’s hard to believe that these begin with green shoots and leaves that turn ebony in two to three years.  Feathery leaves adorn these sturdy, black canes, which can grow to 4 cm thick. They are considered an ornamental prize by some gardeners.  Once they have run their course, the canes retain their dark coloring even after they have been dried.

Botanic name: Sasa veitchii (Carrière) Rehder
Common name: bamboo grass
Family: Poaceae

Near the Manor House driveway there is a patch of bamboo grass–which, by the way, looks nothing like grass.  It grows about 2-3’ tall, and a patch of this plant can get up to 30’ across. The leaves do not die back in the winter, and though they come on solidly green, they eventually develop white margins, giving them a more flamboyant look. 

Mystery Bamboo

In your journey about the upper garden, you will find a good-sized patch of this low growing bamboo.  If you’re not looking for it, you might miss it, because it only grows about a foot high. Garden records only list this plant as “Bamboo” so we need your help to determine what it is. Contact Courtney Vengarick ( ) for more information. 

Botanic name:  Nandina domestica
Common name: heavenly bamboo
Family: Berberidaceae

Don’t let the name fool you–the only member of the genus nandina is not actually a bamboo, but is instead a species of flowering evergreen shrub getting up to 7’ tall. It is a member of the Berberidaceae family, complete with the requisite flowers and berries.

Upper Garden Development – December 2020

Construction video updates on Garden Expansion Phase One

Designing for the Future

Nearly eight acres in the undeveloped Upper Garden will offer new botanical and programmatic experiences to visitors and…

Phase One Development

The first phase of development construction began in 2019. Highlights include:

Leach Garden Friends awarded grant from M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust

$130,000 capacity-building grant over 3 years; Introducing Virginia Brandabur, Visitor Services Manager

Upper Garden Construction Updates

Community updates about Upper Garden construction project

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