I finally found the tool to make me excited about thinning out my bamboo! For the past few years, I’ve been using hand pruners to thin the ¼” diameter culms of bamboo to create a stand of bamboo that was elegant and open. As the bamboo has established a larger root system since planting three years ago, I’ve been pruning out culms that are now 1” or more. The hand pruners are not the job for this because it hurts your hand and takes a long time to cut just one culm out. The hand pruners are also too bulky to navigate through the narrow spaces created by the clumping bamboo. Besides leaving me sweaty and frustrated, the hand pruners left awkward, angled stumps above the ground. I longed for a thin saw that could get in there and create a clean cut at ground level without nicking the neighboring culms.
At the recent San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in San Mateo last month, Hida Tool and Hardware Company from Berkeley had a booth where they were selling specialty pruning tools. I had heard about this store of imported Japanese tools for years and failed to make it to their location on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. They were selling a super sharp and efficient narrow saw specifically for cutting bamboo and other narrow branches, even PVC pipe. It folds into its’ sleeve for safety and portability when not in use. It’s official name, Gyokucho #840 All Purpose Folding Saw, was $38 and well worth it.
The three varieties of clumping bamboo I planted have been a great joy to watch fill out over the past three years. The first two years the bamboo stayed in a more shrubby form, but each spring they reach at least a few feet higher than the last year. They’ve finally gotten to the point where their screening is too dense and I can use my saw to play with how open and transparent I want them to be. They are screening the two story cottage our neighbor has in their backyard that creates an imposing barrier along one side of our garden. The culms of the Giant Timber Bamboo(Bambusa Oldhamii), have gone from ¼” to 1.5” in diameter. With this saw, I am able to prune out the thinner culms so the larger ones stand out more and captures the grace and strength associated with bamboo. I still use the hand pruners to trim off the side shoots that obscure the lower portion of the culms.
I want to keep each clump fairly narrow and tall. Our garden is small, so each foot is valuable. Bamboo is known for creating a fast, tall and narrow screen but it does take maintenance. If you have bamboo, this saw will be invaluable in your repertoire of go-to garden tools. It is also handy for cutting off larger branches of trees and shrubs where a clean cut is necessary.