This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
The Bamboo-Canes are readily distinguished by their jointed leafy flexuose branching stems, but those species which will endure the rigours of our winters are mere miniatures of the tropical species, some of which rise to a height of 60 or 70 feet. Although they possess branched stems, they, like all other Grasses, only flower once from the same culm; thus the appearance of the flower announces the death of the flowering stem. The flowers of most Bamboos are hexandrous. The stems are usually hollow and jointed, and when mature of a hard woody nature, and the leaves relatively shorter, lanceolate, and narrowed at the base. The hardy species or varieties are from Japan and China, and seldom attain a height of more than 10 or 12 feet in the most sheltered situations, and they are only suitable for planting in the South and West.
1. B. Metake, syn. B. Japonica. - A dwarf much-branched species from 4 to 6 feet high. Leaves dark green, lanceolate, very acute, shortly petiolate; blade about a foot long, sheath ample. This species flowers freely in this country.
2. B. falcata, syn. Arundinaria falcata. - A taller-growing hardy species from 10 to 15 feet, or in favourable situations occasionally as much as 20 feet high. Leaves bright pale green, distichous, linear-acute, about 4 or 5 inches long.
4. B. nigra. - A dwarf bushy species distinguished by its purplish ultimately glossy black stems.
5. B. Fortunei. - A dwarf tufted plant from 1 to 2 feet high with very slender stems and long linear leaves. There are only variegated varieties of this in cultivation, under the names variegata and argeriteo-vittata.
There are several other varieties or species in cultivation, as B. aurea, violdcea, pubescens, verticillata, Limbnii, etc.
Amongst our indigenous ornamental Grasses we may direct attention to Arilndo Phragmitis, syn. Phragmitis communis. Marsh Reed, the tallest and showiest of native Grasses, rising to a height of 6 to 10 feet, with dense silvery terminal panicles of flowers. Phalaris arundinacea variegata, the well-known .Ribbon-Grass or Lady's Garters; Briza media, common Quaking-Grass; Alva flexuosa and Agrostis Spica-venti - the two latter very graceful species.
The hardy exotic species we may divide into two groups, annual and perennial. To the former group belong Lagurus ovdtus, Harers-foot Grass; Lamarckia aurea; Polypbgon Monspeliensis, Beard Grass (a very scarce British Grass), with dense spike-like inflorescence; Agrostis nebulosa, A.plumosa, Briza gracilis, Eragrostis elegans, Piptatherum midtiflorum, with graceful much-branched panicled inflorescence; Chloris barbata, C. elegans, C. radidta, Dactyloctenium AEgyptlacum, Eleusine Barcelonensis, with fascicled spicate inflorescence; Leptochloa gracilis, with the spikes arranged in a raceme; and Pennisetum longistylon and Tricholana rosea, with narrow panicles. All of the foregoing species are very beautiful, but for elegance, lightness and grace, those described as having a much-branched panicled inflorescence are the most desirable. Zea Mays, Maize or Indian Corn, is a half-hardy annual of which there are many handsome variegated and other varieties in cultivation. Amongst perennial hardy exotic grasses the best are Agrostis Steveni, Erianthus Ravennae, Melica altissima, Hordeum jubatum, Squirrel-tail Grass; Stipa penndta, and other species, Feather Grass; Andropbgon argenteus, A. strictus, etc., ranging from 1 to 3 feet high. Gymnothrix latifolia is a very beautiful large-growing grass in the way of Gynerium, and Saccharum Maddeni has fine ornamental foliage.
There are handsome variegated varieties of Poa pratensis, Festuca ovina, Dactylis glomerata, Arundo Donax, etc., very effective for edging.