Begin with Bamboo

(page 2)

The flowering of bamboo has always been shrouded in mystery. Certain species can take at least sixty years before flowering. It is often believed that if one species of bamboo starts to flower in a particular locality, it will do so throughout the world. This is not entirely true. Plants that flower simultaneously undoubtedly came from the same parent plant that has been divided and re-divided over a period of years. In this manner the same botanical identity is retained and all of these plants flower at the same time. If, however, plants come from different sources in their native habitat they all have their own botanical identity that varies within narrow limits. There's a good chance that the period of flowering of these plants will be different.

Most of the hardy bamboos thrive best in moist and warm environments, sheltered from strong winds. They won't do well in a very exposed position. North and east winds especially can be harmful. Certain species need to grow in shade whilst others prefer full sunlight. Nearly all types of soil are suitable as long as they are well drained and kept constantly moist. The hardy bamboos range in size from the pygmies of only 30 cm to giants of twelve metres or more. In favourable climates such as the south of France, a few species will reach well over 20 metres in height.

One species that has been cultivated in European gardens for a long period of time is Pseudosasa japonica. The leaves are medium-large and the habit of growing is stiff and erect. It is excellent for hedging and ideal for windbreaks. Other ones like Arundinaria (Fargesia) murielae and Semiarundinaria nitida are bone hardy and very graceful looking. They are of the clump-forming type.

An excellent low-growing bamboo, and one of my favourites, is Arundinaria viridistriata with its attractive golden-yellow striped foliage. In a cold winter the leaves may damage but it always gives new fresh brilliant coloured growth in spring.

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