Bamboo

Use dwarf and clump-forming varieties to create impact in your garden.

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Bamboos can profoundly change the character of a garden such is their deep association in the art and culture of China and Japan, where many garden types come from, but they are widespread across most of the tropics and subtropics.

In recent years they’ve become very popular, particularly those with colourful or shapely canes, known as culms, where they impart a serene elegance to beds and borders. Naturally growing on the edge of forests or in forest clearings they are deal for semi-shaded positions and look good in large pots in paved courtyards. They’ve also developed a reputation for being invasive and while some do have expansive tendencies problems usually arise when they are squished into inappropriately tight spaces, or planted too close to loose paving or boundary fences.

Others, such as those presented here are clump-forming (known as sympodial types), and although spreading they do so relatively slowly, rather than throwing out distant rhizomes (known as monopodial types). The root and shoot systems of garden bamboos usually stay in the top 30cm (12 in) of soil, so placing an impenetrable barrier, such as a paving slab on edge or using a flexible bamboo barrier (visit www.deeproot.com) will help keep them contained.

The clump formers are also better suited to growing in large pots or half barrels, ideally in a general purpose and John Innes blended mix, with additional grit or Perlite added for drainage. The best forms of bamboo are expensive as they can only be propagated by division of the rootstock and are slow to establish.

In the open bamboos like moist, well-drained soils, ideally with plenty of organic matter and dappled shade. Avoid sites which are continually hot and dry. Once planted keep them watered, especially in dry periods as they will suffer if droughted.