If you give a plant growing conditions that are similar to those that it thrives in the wild then that plant will usually do very well. Its not always as easy as it sounds. Every garden has its own micro-climate and although there are one or two things we can possibly do to improve that, usually by adding or growing wind breaks, creating sun traps and opening up shaded areas the options are fairly limited. There is nothing on the other hand we can do about the overall climate in general.
Living in the UK means we are living the temperate zone where our climate is very much influenced by the fact we are an island. The presence of the gulf stream blessing us with milder winters than we possibly deserve for our latitude particularly when compared with corresponding latitudes in central China, where the winters can be extremely cruel.
Many of the bamboos we sell come from these areas in China such as Ganshu, Sezchuan, Zhejiang where the seasonal changes are far more extreme than we experience in the United Kingdom. As a consequence we can easily grow bamboos such as Phyllostachys Bissettii which is hardy down to minus 23 degrees without much worry. However, on the other hand, we do not have such intensely hot summers, so where a bamboo like Bissettii will quite easily reach over 12 meters or more in its home environment we can expect it to make about two thirds of that in our climate. Usually between 5 and 8 meters depending on whereabouts in the UK we are situated. Still a respectable size for a larger garden and quite formidable for an average one.
Although bamboos are true grasses their needs differ from many of the ornamental grasses. Where the majority of grasses are happy with impoverished soil and handle severe drought condition and exposure to the elements such as wind, bamboos are a little more fussy though with a little care in choosing your plants you should be able to cope with most situations. In China much of the very best bamboos grow in hollows and shallow valleys protected from the drying winds yet still enjoying maximum sunshine and the benefits of a moist and fertile pockets at the bottom of the depression.
You probably have picture in your minds eye of what you would like your garden to look like, but please take a moment before you start ordering your plants to make a basic appraisal of your garden’s disposition with regard to the soil type the aspect and its exposure and also the shadow boundaries, a factor that is often overlooked. Once you know what you have, you will be able to assess whether it can be improved or altered. If it’s not possible to improve or alter your garden or the costs are prohibitive then it may be necessary to compromise a little. Now I mean compromise a little, because although the grasses you had originally planned to put in a particular position or situation may now appear unsuitable due to the fact that position is shaded or far to wet. Don’t worry there are loads of alternatives amongst the sedges and ferns that will literally thrive in those conditions and are very capable of producing some of the most unusual and attractive displays that you could wish for.
There is a saying about putting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Basically it’s bull and the rest can go with the organic mulch. There is no such thing as the wrong plant; they are all the right plants, just some of them get put in the wrong places. Use your eyes and look around you and appraise. Do your homework and find out which plant suits the soil type, which aspect is best for that particular plant then you won’t go far wrong.
Finally, if you have planted a bamboo or grass and it doesn’t look like its doing well, then dig it up and move it somewhere else. Don’t worry about the right time, the right time is then while its looking poorly not when its dead. The plant wants to survive as much as you want it to do.