Favorite bamboo books

Here is a list of my favorite books on the subject. In my opinion, there’s not one authoritative resource covering all the aspects of growing bamboo, therefore I recommend reading as many of these books as you can.


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Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon by Paul Whittaker

Written in the first person by a British bamboo nurseryman with decades of experience. This book has what are probably the most detailed descriptions of individual bamboo species, intermingled with first-hand growing information and even some amusing anecdotes. While Paul’s nursery is located in the U.K., much of the information shared in this book is useful for U.S. gardeners as well, especially those living in temperate zones (8 and below). Tropical species are not covered so the book is not as useful for people living in zones 9 and above.

Website for Paul’s nursery: http://www.hardybamboo.com.


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Bamboo for Gardens by Ted Jordan Meredith

In my opinion, the best all-round bamboo book written by a U.S. author. It covers everything from distribution, function, culture and propagation to recommendations for specific situations. Fairly detailed descriptions of individual species, including temperate and tropical species. The downside is that the book was published in 2001 so species described after the publication date are not included. This may not be much of an issue for people living in temperate zones but quite a few more recently introduced bambusas, for example, are not included. Still recommended as a great general resource.


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Timber Press Pocket Guide to Bamboos by Ted Jordan Meredith

Published in 2009, this handy reference guide is basically an updated version of the species descriptions from Ted Meredith’s Bamboo for Gardens. Includes many tropical species not listed in Bamboo for Gardens. If you don’t need a comprehensive reference book, this is the perfect take-along guide. It’s the one book I take with me every time I visit a bamboo nursery or garden.


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Ornamental Bamboos by David Crompton

Another detailed book by a U.K. author. Not quite as entertaining a read as Paul Whittaker’s Taming the Dragon, this is still a very thorough resource. Has better coverage of species marginally hardy in the U.K. (and hence U.S. zone 7 and below) than Taming the Dragon.


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Practical Bamboos: The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers and More by Paul Whittaker

See here for an in-depth review.


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Building Bamboo Fences by Isao Yoshikawa

If you’ve ever wanted to build a Japanese bamboo fence, this is the perfect book for you. This is an authentic reference that covers more than a dozen different Japanese designs and illustrates a variety of techniques. More detailed than most people need but even I found a basic design my wife and I were able to do.


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The Craft & Art of Bamboo, Revised & Updated: 30 Eco-Friendly Projects to Make for Home & Garden by Carol Stangler

Because of my two left thumbs and general lack of handiness when it comes to wood-working I’ll probably never tackle any of these projects but this is a lushly photographed and illustrated book that is both beautiful to look at and an inspirational resource for people who have the skills and tools. Anybody out there volunteering to make a few things for me???


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A Practical Guide to Japanese Gardening by Charles Chesshire

For me, hands-down the best practical book on Japanese gardening available. There are many beautiful books about the history and philosophy of Japanese gardens, but this one was written specifically for Western gardeners interested in incorporating Japanese elements in their gardens. This is a big and heavy book with hundreds of photographs that covers all aspects of Japanese gardening. Inspirational and practical at the same time. Highly recommended for people whose interest goes beyond bamboo.


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Living with Japanese Gardens by Lisa Parramore, Chadine Flood Gong, and Svein Olslund

A small but beautifully written and illustrated book by a pair of Northern California garden designers. Basically a series of case studies completed by the authors, both of whom lived and studied in Japan. Not really a hands-on book, but I find the photography to be extremely evocative. Would also make a great gift for somebody interested in Japanese gardening as practiced in the U.S.