A world of ferns
Ferns are the quintessential shade plants, evoking impressions of cool green places. Around for 400 million years, they are survivors with characteristics that make them tough, adaptable and dependable garden plants.
Plan for success
With 12,000 species worldwide, ferns have developed a variety of growing strategies. Some are colonizers able to cover large areas. These make great groundcovers creating loose, informal effects. Others form crowns that grow with age but remain reliably in the spot they’re put. Architectural plants, often graceful vase-shapes, they make stunning specimens that can lend a formal feeling to spaces. In between these two extremes are slowly spreading ferns that create well-behaved patches.
Considering the habit of your fern choices will make them garden citizens to enjoy for years. Listed below is a sample of some of the ferns to try, all hardy to zones 3 or 4.
Colonizing: With tiny wing-like foliage held horizontally to the ground, oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris) is a refreshing-green, 6 inch-tall groundcover in rich, moisture-retentive soil. Space allowing, consider the spring edible Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). With a beautiful shuttlecock form growing to four feet it has big