A world of ferns

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Garden Market -

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

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