Only a few of the commonest uses are shown here and there is plenty of scope for experimentation, particularly as some forms are quite recent introductions to the UK.
Bamboos produce a luxuriant and exotic effect and contribute in terms of stem colour, evergreen foliage, plant form and the movement and sound of their foliage when affected by winds.
In some species, such as Fargesia murielae, the foliage is so plentiful that the culms are barely visible so if the stems also need to be a feature, it is important to select on that basis.
Please use the "Bamboo Stock List" to access full descriptions and photographs. Species available in extra large sizes are highlighted in red.
There is much to be said for using a mixture of types, both for additional interest and as long- term insurance against the possibility of flowering.
SCREENING ALONG BOUNDARY FENCES
Bamboos are popular for disguising unattractive fencing or to improve privacy by adding some extra height. A mature height of 8/12ft ( 2.5/3.5m) is commonly chosen but this limits the choice of species.
The non-running Fargesia nitida 'Jiuzhaigou' is very suitable but if planted close to the fence, rhizome barrier should still be used as the clumps will gradually increase in diameter over time and may then tuck under the base of the fence unless a gravel board extends into the soil. Alternatively, if sufficient space is allowed, occasional spadework should be sufficient to intercept shoots which are getting too close to the base of the fence.
Pseudosasa japonica is very effective and can be trimmed without spoiling its natural appearance.However, as it is moderately spreading the above precautions are important.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT BAMBOO
The choice of species will depend upon such things as the height needed at maturity, whether foliage or canes are to be the main feature, whether the site is in sun or shade, and the degree of vigour required.
Non-running bamboos are all species of Fargesia, Borinda, and Thamnocalamus.
Species of Borinda form the tallest screens but are not yet available in quantity.
Fargesia robusta ( syn. F. robusta "Campbell" is particularly effective. It has an upright habit and forms plenty of canes and dense foliage. Average mature height approximately 12/14ft (4/5m).
For low or medium heights:-
Fargesia nitida or Fargesia nitida 'Jiuzhaigou' will reach between 2.5 and 4m and have plentiful upright canes.
Borinda scabrida is slow to start but forms a dense, slightly arching screen of around 12ft (4.5m)
Running bamboos will naturally give the quickest screening effect and are a good choice in situations where their spreading habit is not a problem. If the planting site is surrounded by lawn, any unwanted shoots will be controlled by mowing. Brick walls etc. will also form an effective barrier to the spread of underground rhizomes. Specially made Rhizome Barrier (also sold as Bamboo Control Barrier) can also be installed and is a semi-rigid black plastic, sold in widths of 45cm / 75cm.
Species which are only moderately spreading can readily be controlled by means of a spade as long as extra space is left around the plants for this purpose.
A large number of Phyllostachys species are useful for screening. All are capable of running but in cooler districts some species such as Phyllostachys nigra and Phyllostachys aurea 'Koi' quite often remain as clumps.
Some of the most popular are :-
Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis'
Fargesia nitida and most other Fargesia species are totally non-running and are sometimes preferred on that account but they may need to be more closely spaced. (see picture right)
Fargesia robusta is probably the fastest growing and is capable of reaching 4 to 5m.
Borinda species are also non-running and are generally much taller than Fargesia spp, reching 5 to 7m or sometimes more.
When selecting varieties for hedging, allowance needs to be made for the fact that the cold tolerance of bamboos is reduced when planted in a position exposed to strong winds.
SPACING of about one plant per metre should be adequate for
hedging, but plants can be
A wider spacing can be used for informal screens, especially if there is more than just a single row.
If planting takes place during spring, it is worth remembering that new canes develop only from ground level and will normally reach a greater height than the existing canes from the previous season.
The older canes will not increase in height or thickness as a tree would do, so it will make very little difference if they are shortened to facilitate delivery.
Regular feeding and watering will naturally improve the speed at which a dense and effective screen can be established and the heights indicated may not be readily achieved on dry or impoverished sites.. Thinning of older canes in spring is deserible but not essential.
Many forms of bamboo can be highly decorative and effective in containers as long as normal attention is given to regular watering and feeding. Automatic watering systems are a great advantage and if there is already an outside tap, this is relatively inexpensive. "Access Irrigation" of Crick, Rugby are specialists.
As with any evergreens, bamboos are vulnerable to winter damage by desiccation if the roots become frozen while the foliage is exposed to wind, so precautions need to be taken during very frosty weather. This may mean plunging or wrapping the container, or moving it to a more sheltered place .
On a patio, there is a great advantage in taking up a single paver to create a planting site unless the use of a container is actually preferred for decorative purposes. Beds created from sleepers are an alternative and provide more stability against wind, together with the opportunity for a larger soil volume. A minimum soil volume of 50L per plant is desirable.
Half-barrels are ideal containers for bamboos, especially as, in future years, the plant can easily be removed for thinning or planting in the garden. The large plastic containers used on nurseries can also be useful and their appearance can be very effectively disguised by a roll of thin cane fencing.
If proprietary composts are to be used for containers, it is preferable to create a mix which includes about ten percent loam and some coarse sand or "John Innes grit" (2/4mm). A high content of composted green waste is undesirable as it is liable to slump over a period of time.
A wide range of bamboos can be grown in pots, etc. but those which would be the most tolerant of being kept in containers would include those listed below. Any which seem to be actually unsuitable are mentioned in their online descriptions.
If there is no likelyhood of the bamboos being transplanted into the garden at a later date, there is no advantage in restricting the choice of species to clump forming types. Running bamboos will have the advantage of filling troughs or containers more quickly and with fewer plants needed.
For medium height - Pseudosasa japonica, Semiarundinaria kagamiana, S. makinoi, S. 'Kimmei', Hibanobambusa 'Shiroshima', Fargesia rufa & otherFargesia species, and possibly Bashania and Yushania species.
Taller growing - Fargesia robusta varieties, Phyllostachys aureosulcata varieties, Ph. bissetii, Ph humilis.
Low growing types - Indocalamus tessellatus & others, Pleioblastus auricomus, Sasa spp.
The tough, vigorously spreading nature of Indocalamus, Sasa and Sasaella species can be used to good effect for stabilising steep banks or to provide a decorative carpet in woodland or other shady areas. In addition, once established, they will normally suppress weed growth very effectively. Their appearance can be maintained by occasional hard trimming in spring.
The same sorts are also capable of filling a container with dense, luxuriant foliage within a single season.
If taller foliage is required, a mixture of Fargesia varieties ( lost labels etc. ) is currently available priced between £6 & £15.00 for pot sizes between 7.5 &15L 30/75cm. (for collection only). These are non-running but if planted at a spacing of about 1.5m, they should produce a dense cover between 1.5/2.5m in height.
Before planting, it may be desirable to incorporate organic matter such as peat, leaf mould or well rotted compost into the soil. Similar material can be used as a surface mulch but not for re-filling the planting hole. After removing the pot, position the plant with about one inch of soil covering the original root-ball and firm the soil around it.
A light topdressing of general fertiliser can be applied thinly over the soil surface in spring and again during summer, avoiding contact with the foliage. Water after planting and also regularly during spring and summer while the plants are taking root. The foliage cannot wilt, but if the leaves are seen to be curling inwards, this is a sign that watering is urgently needed.
Until the plants are fully established, they are vulnerable to damage by keen frosts, strong wind or high temperatures and temporary protection by means of fleece or other permeable material may be desirable if these conditions occur.
The appearance of well established plants may benefit from thinning a proportion of the canes so that the best stems can be more effectively displayed - this is especially the case when a grove is required rather than clumps. Thinning the canes is also a means of reducing the amount of shade cast by bamboos used for screening. Removal of some lower branches will further enhance visibility of the stems and may also result in thicker canes being produced in future years. Some of the more vigorous species can be a useful source of garden canes.
If you are fortunate enough to have more culms than needed within a clump or grove, the older or thinner ones can be harvested for use as garden canes, preferably in early summer after new culms have finished expanding. This will ensure that most of the food reserves stored in the old culms are passed to the younger portion of the plant.
Any tall growing bamboo can provide canes for garden or craft uses but there are differences between species in terms of colour and wall thickness of the canes. Bashania fargesii is particularly useful if space is available for its vigorously spreading habit.
In the event of substantial quantities of canes being available, there are a multitude of craft uses for them, many of which are described by Carol Strangler in "The Art and Craft of Bamboo" (published in 2001 by Lark Books).
The emerging shoots of most bamboos are edible after boiling but the texture and flavour varies very much between species. Bamboo shoots quickly become bitter as they mature and are best harvested within about a week after emergence. The tougher outer portions of the shoot can be discarded after cooking. In China Phyllostachys dulcis and Phyllostachys praecox are particularly valued for bamboo shoots.
Whitelea Nursery, Tansley, Matlock, Derbyshire. Telephone: 01629 55010
Page Revised 18/4/2021|