Book Review: Hardy Bamboos

One last book review for you last-minute holiday shoppers, this time on a subject that is a favorite of mine: bamboo. I own a few books on bamboo, and although they have their merits this one is probably my favorite.

It's Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon by Paul Whittaker. So what makes this bamboo book the one I pick up most often?


First, I should point out that the books on bamboo I own are mainly used for enjoyment and as a catalog of different species and forms that are available. I don't necessarily use them -- this book included -- as references for cold hardiness, rate of growth, etc. My climate differs from that of the author's garden significantly (he gardens in England, with significantly cooler in summers and warmer in winters than here in the Midwest -- at least historically.

Different climate means different growth habits, most notably in the area of spread. So when the author writes that a particular bamboo is a slow spreader, or is quite cold-hardy, that doesn't necessarily mean it will behave that way in my garden. (I've found no Phyllostachys that are "slow spreaders" for instance.)

I really love the photos included in this book. Although there are not photos for every single bamboo mentioned, there are lots of them. They also are varied enough to keep your eye's interest -- there are many species of bamboos that look very similar to each other. Variety is what keeps this interesting!

The photos that compare side-by-side bamboo culms and leaves are some of my favorites.

There are several detailed illustrations in the book, especially in the beginning sections that describe bamboo physiology in more detail than most gardeners probably want. Quite informative though.

My favorite feature though is probably the sketches of the plants:

These were provided for most listed species to give you an idea of their growth habits. Some bamboos grow more upright, while others tend to be leaners. If I had consulted this book before planting my Phyllostachys glauca 'Yunzhu' I would have seen that I'd eventually have problems with it leaning into my neighbor's yard -- which is why I removed it.

There are lots of photos of bamboo in garden settings too, which is really helpful and helps convince the reader that bamboo can make quite a statement in the garden. I spent many hours every winter week looking through this book when I was new to bamboos back in 2007 and 2008 -- I use it less now that I have some good-sized bamboos to enjoy out the window.

In summary, this is my favorite book on bamboo. Plenty of beautiful photographs, decent information although not entirely applicable to all garden climates, and quite useful illustrations. It's not definitive as a reference though, as it was published in 2005 and there have been more recent species introductions. Note that it does not include much if any information on tropical or subtropical bamboos -- it's about temperate plants.

My four book review questions:

Am I glad to have it on my bookshelf?    Yes!
Would I be disappointed if I misplaced it it?   Yes.
Will I read it again?   Will I refer to it again? Yes, but probably less and less as my bamboos mature.
Would I give it as a gift?   Yes, but only to gardeners with any interest in bamboo.

If you missed them, here are my previous book reviews from this season:

The Garden Club of America
The Forest Unseen
The Roots of My Obsession
Missouri Wildflowers
Hardy Succulents
The Beginner's Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables
Botany for Gardeners


Blog Widget by LinkWithin  – (December 22, 2013 at 7:27 AM)  

I haven't come across this book but I have visited Paul's nursery which isn't too far from here. He is so enthusiastic about bamboos that you come away feeling that you really need far more bamboos than your garden needs or has room for.
A good review I shall look out for the book.

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