LOVE them or hate them bamboos have increased in popularity in our gardens over recent years.
It gives them a hint of the orient although it is unlikely you will ever find a panda hiding in the clump at the bottom of the garden – you are more likely to find a hedgehog sheltering from the winter weather.
One of the more delicate bamboos that does not have the invasive qualities so often thought of as typical of bamboos is Fargesia, sometimes labelled as Arundinaria.
The most commonly planted species in this country is F. nitida, the Fountain Bamboo, that flowered about three years ago across the whole country with the result that most of the parent plants died.
New strains are now appearing from the collected seeds and it is a good time to start again if you lost one.
Fargesia murielae, the Umbrella bamboo, is also worthy of cultivation in the larger garden. It can reach up to 4m (12ins) and has older canes with a yellow hue and younger canes with a white-powdery appearance.
Pleioblastus auricomus, the golden striped bamboo, only reaches around 1m (3ft) high but provides you with the brightest splash of gold of almost any foliage plant. It does spread gradually by underground rhizomes but these are small enough to remove easily if you do not want it to overtake an area of garden.
Unlike Fargesias, these lose their leaves in our winters but for six months of the year the golden splash in sun or semi-shade is a real pleasure.
Look out for the white-striped bamboo, P. variegata as a white alternative.
If you want one to cover the ground for you in even the densest shade look no further than Sasa veithcii, the Kuma zasa or small bamboo that can reach up to 2m (6ft) in the right circumstances but for most gardens its normal height is around 1.5 metres (5ft).
Its large, broad foliage gives an architectural quality to the plant and, as the leaf margins wither in the autumn, it takes on an almost variegated appearance. It can spread and so needs to be isolated in an area of the garden where it can look after itself.
One of the ‘must have’ plants that became so popular during the BBC Ground Force series is Phyllostachys nigra, the Black Bamboo with its black canes up to 5m (15ft) in good growing conditions. Phyllostachys remain as clump forming plants in our climate for the most part and so can be relied on not to take over your garden.
There are over 80 species of Phyllostachys and a good number of them are garden worthy.
To follow up the subject of grasses and bamboos further, why not search out a copy of Rick Darke’s ‘The Colour Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, published by Timber Press in 1999.
To search out a good nursery to see and buy bamboos, visit Whitelea Nursery in Matlock, Derbyshire. Call 01629 55010 or visit www.uk-bamboos.co.uk. They are listed in the RHS Plant Finder 2010-2011 along with other suppliers of bamboos across Britain.
If you can get to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in West London, the bamboo garden is an experience not to be missed.
Visit www.kew.org for more information.