Gardening Magazine

Bamboo Plants in the Garden

By Plantedd @Plantedd

A bamboo was one of the first things that I ever planted in my parents’ garden. This was about 15 years ago, and it’s still there brightening up a shady boundary along with its neighbouring epimediums and Primula florindae. It didn’t occur to me until today though that it’s still the only bamboo I’ve ever planted, so I’ve been having a think about why that is and why it is relatively rare to see them in gardens. I suspect that it’s the bamboo’s bad luck to have a few members of the family with a marauding nature. Sure, there are those like a lot of the Sasa or Indocalamus species that will conquer and plunder your garden, but there are also many more that are good-natured clump formers or ones that spread slowly.

What got me thinking about all this? I was catching up with last night’s Gardeners’ World on iPlayer. Rachel de Thame was looking at hepaticas, Carol Klein visited the cavernous Temperate House at Kew and Monty Don was at home at Longmeadow planting hydrangeas. However, the piece that caught my eye was about the National Collection of bamboos that Mike Bell grows at his garden in Cornwall.

No doubt Mike Bell has a large garden but when I was watching the bamboos on screen, it struck me that they would also be very effective in a smaller garden. The gentle rustling and swaying would add movement and sound that ‘lifts’ a garden, which is useful in small spaces that feel constricted and heavy. Using them at the boundaries of a garden would give you privacy without closing you in. If you keep the base of the canes bare by removing the lower leaves and branches then they can also have quite a small footprint (as well as showing off the canes).

The trick to keeping bamboos happy is to keep them well-watered in the first two or three summers that you plant them, whether that’s in the borders or in a pot.  We’ve got a good selection of bamboos on Plantedd so it’s the perfect place to start having another look at this useful group of plants. Don’t let those greedy pandas hog them!

Here are a few suggestions for bamboos that are well-behaved:

Fargesia 'Jiuzhaigou'

Fargesia ‘Jiuzhaigou’ - This is still quite rare in the UK. It’s a clump-forming bamboo with canes that start off green, but which turn slowly to a red/purple color and eventually to a light orange. Fargesia ‘Jiuzhaigou’ is especially useful because it will grow well in quite shady conditions. Height: 8-10 feet

Phyllostachys nigra f. henonis

Phyllostachys nigra f. henonis - This is a form of the popular black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, which has light green canes and it’s the one that Monty Don was planting in a big steel container on last night’s Gardeners’ World. As Monty said, it’s a very hardy plant so it’ll shake off any cold that’s thrown at it and it’s tall. Height: more than 15 feet (up to about 20 feet)

Fargesia denudata

Fargesia denudata - A bamboo with delicate small leaves and an arching habit, so it looks very graceful. The fresh green foliage also makes it a very ‘light’ plant. This will keep to itself and form a tight clump. Height: 12 feet

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