Fargesia robusta 'Campbell'                    

Height: 12' to 17'
Canopy Width:   3' to 20'
Culm Diameter:  " to "
Hardiness: -5 F
Light Tolerance: 1 through 4
USDA Range: 6 through 9
2 gallon:  $40
5 gallon:  $70
10 gallon: $125

    Fargesia robusta Campbell has become one of the most important new bamboos in western horticulture. It was first collected by Dr. Julian Campbell in the Wolong nature reserve in northwest Sichuan, China, and brought to Kew Botanical Gardens of England in the mid 1980's. The discovery was well timed - just when it was becoming apparent that true Clumping Bamboo have great value in small, urban gardens where, because of limited space, it is sometimes not feasible to grow the better known, spreading timber-type bamboos.
    F. robusta is appropriately named, with a robust, yet non-invasive growth habit. It is able to withstand cold winters and windy conditions showing minimal leaf stress.  Its versatility, growing well in sun or shade, makes it ever useful in the landscape.  In hot climates without coastal influence, F. robusta prefers shade during the hottest part of the day.  Regions such as the Pacific Northwest are similar to its native climate of forest covered mountains. It matures to about 15 feet tall and sends up two crops of new shoots in a single growing season.  The first occurs in early spring. The second flush, though much smaller, in August through September.
     In January, as the days grow longer, the underground buds are pumped with energy from the parent plant, gradually expanding in size and changing color, from tan to pink.  In warm years, by mid-February, one can brush aside an inch of leaf mulch and topsoil to find hundreds of new shoots within inches from the base of the mature plant, poised to explode out of the ground when the temperature dictates.
    Usually by early to mid March (in zone 8), they begin their emergence. The new shoots initially have tightly overlapping culm sheaths which are deep burgundy at the margins, fading to pink and tan in the middle and pastel green near the tips. They are covered with minute, brownish hairs. As they extend up a few feet, green culms are exposed and the culm sheaths fade to whitish-tan, creating a beautiful checker-like color pattern. This pattern persists until mid summer when the culms sheaths finally fall off.
      By May, the new culms have reached their full height, often a couple feet taller than the original plant. 1 to 3 feet of height gain per year can be expected. Some years, particularly after a rough winter, the new shoots are equal to or less than the parent plant.  In climates that have typical winter lows of
0 F or less, about 10 feet is probably the maximum size attainable. In truth, we have never, nor know of anyone who has, grown F. robusta taller than 15 feet. It has been documented in its native climate at 18 ft., so we remain hopeful that the same can be achieved  in the United States. The plants in these photographs are about 14 feet tall with several hundred culms, and about 5 years old. 
    The canopy is about equal in width to the height, though the base is only 5 feet in diameter. Because the culms cluster together so tightly, the foliage flares open to soak up the available light. In an area with a lot of direct sunlight, F. robusta tends to be more compact and upright. 
    It can easily be pruned to nearly any shape. If a narrow, upright screen is desired, cut the top two to four feet off of the culms that weep out around the perimeter.  With out the weight of the top foliage, they will spring back upright. Culms can be cut at ground level to reduce the overall width or density.
     The leaves are a rich green color which is constant through all the seasons.  Even in direct sun, the foliage remains open and unburdened, photosynthesizing the day away.  They drape from the culms with an elegant form. One can detect the influence of the bamboo leaf pattern within Asian arts, language, and culture.




Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Sheath blades at the top of a new shoot, early March morning.


Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Close up showing fine, brown hairs on the new shoots.


Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
     Close up of buds preparing to grow into new culms.



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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Early September
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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
A large Fargesia robusta, about 14 feet tall. 5 years old.

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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Beautiful checker board color pattern on new shoots.

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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
This photo was taken in early May, with new shoots about 6-8 feet tall

Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Evergreen leaves looking good, late November.

Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Branching pattern at the node.

   In its native habitat, there is much diversity within the species F. robusta. Several recent introductions are slightly different than the original 'Campbell' variety (collected by Dr. Julian Campbell). In 1997, Jos van der Palen of Kimmei Nursery in Holland, imported a Fargesia robusta found at nearly 9,000 feet elevation. Named 'Pingwu', it has slightly larger leaves and reputed to be more vigorous, though we have not witnessed anything to support the latter. It was  named after the area of its supposed origin, Pingwu, China, though later revealed that it was found in the Wolong nature reserve, an important stomping ground for the Giant Panda, not far from where the 'Campbell' variety was discovered.  A third variation, called 'Wolong', also came from the nature reserve. It has leaves that are glossy dark green and nearly twice as large as the leaves of the 'Campbell' type. It is a strong, reliably fast grower, but not as sun tolerant.  All three types make fine garden plants and we can speculate that there are many new variations yet to be revealed, some already established in Europe, others yet hidden beneath the mist shrouded rainforests of
Sichuan.
    In general, bamboo has had a longstanding reputation as a vigorous plant that is difficult to contain. F. robusta has been vitally important for bamboo horticulture and commerce, spearheading the concept that cold hardy Clumping Bamboo can be grown by anyone, without worry of unwanted spreading. A resurgence of new ideas and containment techniques developed by specialist bamboo nurseries and landscapers have provided well grounded knowledge about bamboo care and maintenance, making it more accessible to a wider audience. 
    First available in the United States in the late 90's, then worth its weight in gold, it is remarkable how quickly Fargesia robusta has gained a devoted following. More readily available now, and for a more reasonable price, it has become a customer favorite.  Its height seems to fall within a magical range that is so desirable. Not too tall, not too short, 15 feet is just about right. One's mind is at ease, knowing it will never spread out of control. It makes a fine privacy screen, focal point, or evergreen accent for the modern garden.

Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
 Soil washed off the root mass, exposing new shoots of F. robusta.  This is a good example of a non-invasive, pachymorph rhizome system.

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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
Mid May
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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
A nice hedge of Fargesia robusta at Bamboo Garden
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Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo

Close up of branching pattern at node.

Noah Bell, Shweeash Bamboo
The tip of a new robusta shoot.