Grasses and Bamboos

What is an ornamental grass?

An ornamental grass is a grass which is allowed to grow to its full potential and show off its ornamental qualities. They are most often perennial, needing to be cut back in the Spring and then re-grow to flower in the Autumn. However, some are evergreen and some are annual. There is a wide variety of grasses available suitable for many types of site condition.
Bamboos belong to the grass family. They have an evergreen and woody structure and have shallow, greedy roots. They don’t do well on shallow chalky soils, waterlogged soils or soils that dry out too much.

Using grasses and bamboos in the garden

Grasses can add height, texture, movement and sound to the garden and work well in mixed borders.
They add interest in late summer and autumn when many other flowering plants are fading.

Bamboos are fantastic plants with tall elegant stems and interesting foliage and can be used as specimen plants, as wind-breaks and for screening unwanted views. They give structure and all-year interest, and provide sound and movement in the breeze.
However, as they have an exotic oriental look and feel, they will not work particularly well in a traditional country style garden.

Beware of the invasive bamboo varieties! Some varieties are clump forming and keep to a relatively small area, others are invasive and are difficult to eradicate once established. If you do want to use an invasive variety, you need to add a barrier 60cm deep around the rootball and set slightly above the ground level to restrict its spread. You can use four  paving slabs sunken into the ground to achieve this, or specific root retaining membrane.

Pruning grasses and bamboos

Grasses and bamboos should never to cut half way down a stem or sheared over like an evergreen shrub,

For grasses, if it is an evergreen variety, just comb through with your hands to remove the old foliage. (It's best to use gloves to avoid cuts.) For deciduous grasses cut right down as close to the ground as you can get, before the new growth starts which will be around the middle of February.

For bamboos, older stems could be cut out from the base if the clump if it is getting congested.
The exception is if you are moving a mature bamboo. I have successfully moved a 10 year old bamboo by cutting it down to the about 20cm from the ground in the spring. Within a few weeks new shoots had been produced.

Examples of grasses and bamboos

Click on any of the images below to enlarge and read more

“We were really impressed with the design service offered by Jayne. Jayne was able to take our initial brief and translate this into a stunning contemporary design that really made the most of the small space we had and provided a great backdrop to our new kitchen extension. The combination of hard landscaping and planting have completely transformed the garden. Over several meetings she was able to communicate the concepts and hone the design and even sample materials. She then recommended and then liaised with the landscaper to ensure the implementation went to plan before completing the final planting.”

Mrs Fenner
Marston Moretaine

"I found Jayne to be very friendly and pleasant to work with. The design is lovely - very attractive. I was impressed with Jayne's willingness to adapt to and take account of our cost constraints and likes and dislikes regarding plants. All work was carried out efficiently and pleasantly. Jayne was always ready to discuss and advise about design and plants and has transformed a boring and rather difficult small garden into an interesting area which will only improve as the plants grow and mature."

Mr & Mrs Barwell
Welwyn Garden City

We love our garden now. Our two dogs had pretty much destroyed it and it had become an embarrassment. We never used it, not even just for ourselves. It now has structure and a proper patio area and is always good to look at even in this bleak weather!

This will be our second spring with it and I'm really looking forward to seeing everything grows again and how it will change this year.

Mr & Mrs Crooke

Jayne was always totally reliable, whether coming out to look at the garden or providing plans and ideas, and is a very knowledgeable plantswoman.

She had a good understanding of what I wanted to do with the garden, and always listened to my ideas and then made suggestions that were appropriate to the location and aspect.

Mr & Mrs Townsend
Houghton Conquest

Jayne's ideas of how to transform a long straight garden into something more interesting were quite inspirational. By introducing shape and perspective the garden now has structure.

The planting plan she suggested has added interest and constant colour which changes with the season.

Needless to say we are delighted.

Mr & Mrs Collier

We were delighted with Jayne's approach to our garden and her understanding of what we were trying to achieve.

Her knowledge of plants and what will actually work is fantastic.

Three years on we are still delighted with our garden.

Mr & Mrs Bryant

Jayne has a real passion for gardening and her knowledge of plants is highly impressive. She seems to know exactly which plant will thrive in a particular part of the garden - sunny, shady, soil type and so on. She also thinks about the proportions and overall effect.

To work with, she is extremely flexible and happy to give you just the bits of advice or help you need.

Mel Henson
Welwyn Garden City