Bamboos belong to the grass family (Gramineae). They are evergreen with woody hollow stems called culms and narrow, handsome foliage. Bamboos make excellent architectural plants; even when used as screens or hedges, they make a dramatic statement in any garden.

They will grow in any dry, sheltered, shady spot and can create a lush tropical effect together with other evergreen shrubs. The tall vertical culms make interesting contrasts with the fronded foliage of ferns. Japanese anemones can be grown nearby, especially white ones such as Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Joubert’.

Most bamboos need plenty of space, since the larger ones will grow up to 4 m (13 ft) tall and many arch over 6 m (20 ft), but there are also some dwarf species.

Some bamboos form clumps and make good specimen plants or focal points. Others have running rhizomes and need to be contained, unless grown in a wild garden or as ground cover. Canes can be green, brown, black, yellow, pink or purple, mottled or streaked. Do not expect bamboos to bloom, however. It may take 100 years for flowers to appear. On the whole, the flowers are untidy anyway and bamboos look better without them.

Bamboos need a sheltered spot, protected from the wind, or they will lose excessive water. Although fully hardy, a bamboo in a container can suffer from drought in winter and it is wise to insulate the pot with fleece or plastic bubble wrap.

Bamboos grow strongly in most soils once they have become established, and some spread very quickly. Many are tropical but plenty are hardy in temperate regions. They can be grown in beds in the garden or in tubs on roofs or in container gardens. A grove or specimen plant of bamboos can transform a prim garden into a much more mysterious and interesting area.

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Bamboos in containers

Bamboos can look superb when well grown in large containers. Terracotta and glazed Chinese pots are suitable but the plants can look just as stately grown in galvanized bins and buckets. The invasive, running types of bamboo are certainly best grown in pots, particularly in small gardens, otherwise they may spread and become a nuisance.

Bamboos are thirsty, hungry plants. Failure to water them sufficiently will cause the leaves to turn brown and even loss of nearly all the leaves. Once this has happened, they will he slow to recover. More vigorous and invasive species will fill up their containers in no time with rhizomes and roots and will then use up water and nutrients at an alarming rate.

Such plants should he reported every year hut there are species that are more suitable for containers. These are slower growing and some may be kept in the same pot for five years or more. Chimonobambusa marmorea grows to 1.5 m (5 ft) and is a semi-dwarf Japanese variety with tightly bunched leaves. C. marmorea ‘Variegata’ has thin reddish stems and yellow striped leaves.

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