Who says gardens are boring in Winter?
Many English gardens look amazing all year round because they have a good green architecture as the backbone of the garden. You only have to think of the solid yew hedges in many large country gardens used to divide the garden into ‘rooms’. Places such as Hidcote, the Arts and Crafts garden near Chipping Campden, typifies this style of design.
Topiary is used extensively to create that much needed winter structure, the most common plants used are Box (Buxus) and Yew (Taxus) – shaped into balls, cones, or many other inventive shapes. Levens Hall in Cumbria is the finest, oldest and most extensive topiary garden in the world with over 100 pieces clipped to unusual designs. Since the onset of box blight some alternatives are now being used such as Ilex Crenata.
So think structure….
Bamboo is one of those plants that people fear because it is invasive but it is lush, evergreen, architectural and gives both movement and sound which few other plants except grasses can. It is also fast growing. Bamboo is defined by how the rhizomes grow: either runners and clump-formers. The runners are more difficult to control as their underground rhizomes will always try to spread. These include Sasa, Pleioblastus, Sasaella and Phyllostachys. Clump-forming bamboos tend not to be invasive and include Fargesia, Bambusa and Chusquea. If you chose to plant an invasive variety you will need to surround it with root barriers.
The colour of the cane can vary from the black Phyllostachys nigra, the yellow Phyllostachys aurea or the lime green Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens. Most bamboo likes sun but Fargesia is particularly good where sunlight is limited.
For ideas visit the Bamboo Garden at Kew or the Bamboo Labyrinth at Alnwick in Northumberland.