GROWING BAMBOO IN NORTHERN UK.

When I mention to people that one of my interests is growing bamboo, they often express surprise, not because I actually grow the stuff, but because I live in Manchester UK. "Surely bamboo only grows in Japan or China" is the usual comment. "It's far too wet and cold in Manchseter to grow bamboo" is another often heard phrase! WRONG!

View from my lounge window. A selection of different evergreen bamboos.

Some ten years or so ago, bamboo growing in the UK was restricted to only a few afficionados and to see bamboo in any quantity, one had to visit private gardens or visit just one or two specialist nurseries which existed. Today, the situation has changed considerably. Not only do do more people seem to be planting bamboo, but even in fairly small sized local nurseries there are often a few bamboo plants for sale. The number of nurseries specialising in bamboo plants has risen dramatically, as has the number of species now freely available. Nowadays, you really CAN plant a jungle in your back garden!

Although I've had a single bamboo growing in my Manchester garden for the last 12 years or so (courtesy of an aunt!) my interest only really started after a trip to Paris in 1995. There, in one of the public parks, was a huge clump of bamboo, tall thick culms (or stems), evergreen leaves on top moving slowly in the summer breeze. A magnificent specimen. I wanted one! I now have seem to have ended up with 29 different varieties of bamboo in my garden!

Phyllostachys Viridi Glaucescens planted 1996 in front garden

Frequently asked questions.

Do they grow in Northern UK? Without a doubt they grow, and some of my bamboos are now reaching 15 to 18 feet in height with culm circumferences of just over 3 inches.

Do they take a lot of looking after? Difficult question to answer. Some bamboo growers endlessly water them, feed them, talk and sing to them etc. I'm afraid all I do is give them plenty of water for the first year and then ......... I ignore them. They thrive on it. No doubt if I were in the mood to look after them a little better, they'd grow a lot bigger and better. But then I'm just bone idle as a gardener, so planting bamboo is just perfect for someone like me!

Are bamboo plants expensive to buy? Depends where you obtain them from and how big a plant you want to pay for. Bamboo is now becoming such a popular and unusual plant for the garden that many of the "upmarket" UK garden centres seem to just think of a figure, triple it, add a bit extra - I've seen some plants of reasonable size being sold for almost £200 ..... and this price is even for fairly common varieties. Even some of the "cheaper" garden centers are asking up to £100 for one plant. There are however much cheaper sources! The cheapest source of the lot is to grow them from seed. Unfortunately bamboo seed is fairly difficult to obtain .... many bamboos only flower and produce seed every few decades. There is one source of seed in the UK and that is to join the The Bamboo Society which run's a sort of seed exchange programme for members. Apart from seed and garden centres, the other alternative is to purchase fairly small plants from a specialist bamboo nursery where you can expect to pay in the region of £22 to £45 per plant. These "smaller" plants will not remain small for long and something which arrives by post on your doorstop about 2 foot high can reach over 8 foot by it's third year.

How tall do bamboos grow? This is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. It all depends. It depends on the normal growing height of the variety being planted, some bamboos are only small, some are huge. It depends on how much watering and feeding you are willing to do. It depends on where you live, your type of soil, your gardens mini climate etc. After 6 years of bamboo growing in Manchester (in world horticultural terms that is Zone 8, minimum temperatures down to about -10 Centigrade) I've only been able to achieve heights of around 15 to 18 feet ...... so far!

 

Other Bamboo Gardens in North UK.

Last week (September 2002) I had the opportunity to visit the homes of three bamboo enthusiasts in Sheffield, Yorkshire. What a feast to the eyes and senses - as well as being a really enjoyable day out thanks to members of the Bamboo Society who organised the day. The three gardens visited, ranged from a large spacious one with bamboos dotted all over the place, a tiny back garden that wouldn't have looked out of place in any Far Eastern country and one where you would have sworn you were in a tropical jungle or rainforest! The illustrations below should illustrate the diversity!

1. The formal garden. Thanks Lorette and Bruce, the lunch (especially the soup!) was delicious and tasted even nicer in such a setting.

2. The small back garden. An absolute gem! Young and Stephen, thanks for the drink, the sesame seed "thingies" were an added bonus - been scouring my local Chinese supermarket for them since I returned!

3. The jungle/rainforest garden. Julie and Simon, not much one can say about this labour of love (or is it just fanaticism!). A joy to behold, and I can definately say that I've never ever seen a garden quite like this one - EVER.

Overall view of the garden. A real treat for any gardener, (my wife would say "what garden, where's the lawn"!). All the photo's above do not do justice for you can't see the banana trees, the tree ferns and other exotic plants.

Do bamboos really grow in Northern England? I don't think you need ever ask that question again!  

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Some Bamboo Books available from Amazon. Just click on them for details.

Bamboos for gardens ..... by Ted Jordan Meredith


The Gardeners Guide to growing Temperate Bamboos ..... by Michael Bell ................ This book is recommended.


Bamboo World: The growing and use of clumping bamboos .... by Victor Cusack


American Bamboos ... by Emmet J Judziewicz


Bamboos ...................... by Christine Recht & Max F Wetterwald


 

 

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