Decorative element for concrete form

I’m making a retaining wall for my backyard bamboo ‘grove’ (21 ft x 8 ft). Adding this bit of decor to the concrete blocks would have been quickly accomplished with a router, but I don’t have a router so I did it with a laser.

First, I cut five pieces from 1/8" aircraft-grade ply. (Why aircraft grade? I had it on hand, I figured it would hold up well to water, and it is considerably more challenging to cut with a laser. Having committed to doing this the hard way, I am all in.) I aligned the pieces with dowels and glued them tight.

Next up was the Bondo, what for the smoothing of my subtly sloped sides. This is also the stage where I start to have serious doubts as to whether I know what I am doing. Happens every time. (The answer is, “Don’t let a lack of knowledge get in the way of success.”)

Sure 'nuff, that turned out OK.

Here it is in the 37" x 9" form.

And here it is in the form, covered with 4" of wet concrete.

You already know how it turned out since I led with the finished product. But since you read this far, here is the actual first pour. (The image up top is pour #2, sans the charcoal coloring. Dark-gray cement must be trendy as heck right now because I am having to drive all over town buying enough color to make 44 of these things.)

Edit: The retaining wall is for show only. It hides the thick plastic barrier that is doing the real work of keeping this bamboo from taking over the world.


That turned out really nice. Glad to see you back here in the forum.

Thank you. It is rare that I remember to take pictures thru the process, but I’m working on it.

Excellent process. I hope you have better luck with the coloring though than I did. I pored some concrete a couple years ago and stained it charcoal color. Now it has reverted back to its original grey color due to sun bleaching I guess. I used a product I bought at Home Depot and mixed it into the wet cement as per the instructions on the bottles.

Hmmm. You have just voiced my #1 fear, beerfaced. Oh well, I am in all the way at this point (ordered bulk color via ebay). Will hope the laws of physics don’t apply to me.

I’d love to see the bamboo. I want bamboo so bad. Think I’ve decided to do “boxes” of it, rather than put it in the ground. But I think I’ve found a place that delivers a clumping variety that gets pretty big.

Nice work. Can’t wait to see the finished wall.

Once it’s in the ground, it spreads like crazy. The rhizomes spread about as fast as the shoots grow vertically. You need something like sheet metal 2’ down into the soil down to contain it - at least, here in GA.

I’ve heard of home owner disputes after one neighbor decided it would be a nice decorative border plant.

Wish carefully.
Destroys foundations and attracts ants, the shoots are sweet. Also spreads like crazy and near impossible to eradicate once established.


Depends entirely on the species. I have seen some “runners” that can show up 20’ away within the year. I had some “umbrella” bamboo that was 3’ in diameter at the base after 20 years though it shaded a circle 30’ in diameter so much nothing would grow there, There was a weed vine that tried taking over everything but before it could reach the sun more bamboo shaded it out. A different species of “fishpole” bamboo did expand out about 5 feet but was cut back.

I have also a cinnamon tree that barely stayed alive over 10 years but now threatens to act like your description of bamboo.

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Could be worse, could be kudzu…


Some of those vines mentioned were “potato vine” often mistakenly call kudzu. I had it all cut down by 9:00 pm and went out before sunrise to find it was 5 feet tall and still red as it had not yet seen the sun. The link was obviously understating the situation, when normal situations 8" a day might be normal but cutting a large vine to the ground without digging out the tubers 2ft down was a different situation.

As with most things in life, arm yourself with a little knowledge (and willingness to sweat) and you’ll be fine. I did a lot of research at before I made my purchase. With running style bamboo, it takes work to properly install and maintain a barrier so this is not a ‘plant it and walk away’ project. Still, nothing to be afraid of. (Also, when timber bamboo like mine is established, there is harvesting to be done every year. And that leads to a lot of excess bamboo poles for which I have to find fun and interesting uses. So, yeah… only do it if you like to remain involved for years to come.)

I went with Phyllostachys vivax ‘Huangwenzhu Inversa’

It has yet to fill in the right side of my plot, but here’s a wider view:

I’ll post a pic of the finished project when the blocks are all in place later this summer.


I knew someone that had a pet lion, the need for care and knowledge is similar, and risk :grimacing:

I also knew someone with an island in a swamp, that the running bamboo was loose. The swamp kept it on the island but digging out runners as they took off was a constant job.

I am well aware of the “runners” and such. Every time I mention bamboo to anyone in person, they freak out about it coming up ‘elsewhere’ and all that. Definitely want clumping variety. But still thinking about putting it in containers. Will have to be big containers (not a deal breaker) because I want the height. That will keep the nearest ‘freaking outer’ (my Wife) from freaking out. :wink:

Totally understand and am committed to the yearly work. We had banana trees for 3 years. Had to dig 'em out and replant them every Fall/Spring. This last Winter, they didn’t survive in the house. (I believe I left them in the garage a few too many cold nights before I had room in the basement for them. I think that killed 'em, though they looked good all Winter. But upon replanting, they never regrew this year.) But man were they gorgeous through August and September.

Yours looks great!


Really cool project. I’d be afraid of a panda infestation. :slight_smile:

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Happily, the panda infestation happened almost immediately.


Very interesting post. Like your use of the Glowforge.