The Culm Before The Storm

(page 2)

My primary windbreaks are a long but rather sparse beech hedge, some conifers and hollies, and a number of large sprawling rhododendrons. Within these confines I have set out to create my own 'subtropical' garden.

I use hardy evergreens such as yuccas, fatsia, eucalyptus, arbutus, yew and holly, while relying quite heavily on bamboo to create the basic subtropical structure. Amongst these, I grow fairly hardy exotics, such as phormiums, palms and cordylines, some of which need protection in the severest weather. I overwinter tender exotics, such as agaves, hedychiums, cannas, callistemons, puyas, coloured cordyline and some palms in a conservatory and greenhouse and bring these into the garden for the summer months.

While bamboos survive the severest of winter weather unprotected it is advisable to provide a thick mulch of well-rotted compost or manure, annually, preferably in the autumn, as this reduces frost penetration to the roots, promotes healthy growth by way of extra nutrients and helps to retain moisture.

Snowfall can be frequent and heavy during an average Sheffield winter and this can do considerable damage to some evergreens, although its insulating qualities are a bonus point. In fact it is rare for us to have a sustained cold spell without the advantage of an insulating layer of snow. Despite the frequency of snow, I have experienced no significant snow damage to bamboos. Moderate to large species such as Phyllostachys, Sasa, Pseudosasa, Thamnocalamus and Fargesia are frequently flattened by snowfall. Under these circumstances it is best to leave well alone, as under these conditions the bamboos are well insulated against subsequent frosts. When the snow melts the culms spring back up again as though nothing untoward had happened.

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