Here in Shoreditch a raised manhole cover provided us with an opportunity to carve out the space behind it and plant lower down – giving a well effect and a home for the Phyllostachys aureosulcata spectabilis. There was no plant suited better for the task of accentuating this void than the thick, glossy stems of the Golden bamboo. Phyllostachys aureosulcata aureocaulis provides tall, straight and smooth canes with long dark leaves – a lush unmistakably tropical appearance. By thinning the canes and lifting the crown one can improve the architectural qualities of the specimen. In this garden I planted 3 clumps together to bulk out at the outset, and with a deep red colour on one side and black cobbles at it’s feet, this bamboo is the main focal point of the garden. Most bamboos look great with garden lighting. Clearing the stems allows the light to travel through the and illuminate the entire plant. I usually add an uplighter further back in another planting bed to light the canopy.
Sasa palmata nebulosa is one of my favourite bamboos. It is medium sized with big lush leaves, providing a very useful evergreen low screen and a tropical backdrop to many fine textured plants. In this roof garden in Butlers Wharf 4 specimens are planted in 2 pairs, either side of the master bedroom – in the shaded, North facing courtyard. It provides a wonderful contrast to the larger leaved Hostas, Ligularias and tree ferns. It responds wonderfully to cutting back and regenerates freely from the base to produce lush spring foliage.
Phyllostachys nigra, the black bamboo, is a phenomenon of stem colour. As with white silver birch and red flowering dogwood this plant found its way into contemporary gardens by giving us a dark mysterious presence against contrasting coloured walls. It is a very tall plant, which produces fairly heavy timber. The impact of juvenile plants is minimal with thin and less colourful canes. The therefore mature plants are highly prized and with a slow growth rate also expensive. All coloured stem plants prefer more sun to develop their complexion and here in this sunny corner of a London roof terrace the black bamboo is showing off its character in light troughs with a red wall behind. Being a lower terrace, the height of the stems reaches the top terrace outside the living room, merging the space together.
Phyllostachys aurea from China is perhaps the most commonly used bamboo here in London. It is fast growing, easy to use and tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Naturally it tends to do best in semi-shade, on a rich, moist soil with protection from wind. Often the plant tends to become chlorotic in troughs on roof terrace where the lack of available nutrition, coupled with variable watering and wind causes decrease its performance though the plants are incredibly tough and are not easily devastated. It is indeed the first plant I ever planted as a gardener, but it is also one of the plants I have ripped out the most…