Create an exotic, jungle atmosphere on your patio this summer with wonderful bamboos (Pleioblastus). Great for bringing a faraway feel to the most suburban situation, they combine effectively with their relatives, the flowering grasses, whose decorative foliage and seed heads will provide a long lasting display.
Growing bamboos and grasses in pots and containers brings additional flexibility and convenience, and the pots themselves can be ornamental in their own right too.
Bamboo is a 'must have' plant
For foliage, form and a strong yet sympathetic personality, bamboo is a ‘must have’ plant. Producing wonderful woody canes and long pointed leaves that are in some cases variegated, they are fully hardy and range in height from 1.2 – 3m (although Pygmy bamboo reaches only a compact 40cm in height.
Looking at specifics, Pleioblastus auricomus is a great choice that would enhance any garden. Reaching a height and spread of 1.5m, the yellow, pointed leaves are striped green and look fabulous in the sun. Ideal for container growing, this bamboo can spread to cover larger areas if planted out. Pleioblastus variegatus (Dwarf white striped bamboo) is a small bamboo well suited to container growing. It reaches a height of 75cm and carries stylish dark green leaves striped with cream.
Pleioblastus pygmaeus is a dwarf bamboo that could have been made for pots! With small leaves and compact dimensions, it can even be managed as a bonsai plant.
Pennisetum villosum (Feathertop)
For ornamental grass companions look out for these: Pennisetum villosum (Feathertop) is a compact flowering grass (height and spread 60cm). In late summer it produces gorgeous seed heads, covered in delicate bristles.
Chinese silver grass
Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Fontane’) produces lovely sprays of light brown seed heads in summer. Carex flagellifera, with its arching, evergreen leaves is perfect for container growing. Flowerheads are brown and form at the end long stalks which will trail down over the edge of a pot.
Once you’ve chosen your plants, follow a few simple steps to get the best results from your pots. Put stones or crocks in the bottom of pots to ensure good drainage. Choose a good quality, compost; this will help to preserve moisture and maintain healthy plants.
Water and feed plants regularly through the growing season. Avoid drying out of compost and be ready to prune and split clumps every couple of years or so. Shelter bamboo from cold drying winds. Although most of these plants do not have any particular soil requirements, always check the needs of individual varieties. Full sun or partial shade is generally suitable.
Well chosen bamboos and flowering grasses will bring a little bit of paradise to your patio for summer, as well as offering a decorative bonus into autumn and beyond.
Now’s the time to enjoy a holiday, but make sure someone takes care of your garden. Most established plants growing in the ground will look after themselves even if your trip coincides with a dry spell, but pots, hanging baskets, vegetable plants and new additions will all need some water and love while you’re away. Enter into a reciprocal arrangement with a neighbour or better still, do a house-swap. You’d be amazed how many people do this these days with other homeowners near and far.
Maybe you’ve been doing it all summer, but if not, now is the time to get out your barbeque and start enjoying outdoor-cooked food. Gas or charcoal, it all tastes great, is a healthy way to cook and lingering food smells become delicious aromas when they are free to escape on the evening breeze!
Baden Powell, founder of the Scout movement, slept on a camp bed on an outdoor balcony winter and summer for many years. We’re not advocating that, but night or two under canvas, either in the garden or at a campsite will leave you feeling more alive and vigorous than normal – as well as making you appreciate your own bed when you get back in it. A warm August night is exactly the time to reawaken your inner outdoorsperson!
Did you know?
The fastest growing plant in the world is a bamboo species that can grow at the rate of 1 metre a day. This is three times as fast as the fastest growing tree. Thankfully, the ones we grow in our gardens are more manageable than that!