South­ern maiden­hair fern and Span­ish blue­bells cre­ate a gar­den pic­ture

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - BY NOR­MAN WIN­TER

The na­tive South­ern maiden­hair fern has al­ways been a plant that some­how mag­i­cally calms me, re­liev­ing stress. They also en­tice me to pause and look not only at their beauty but the sur­round­ing plant com­mu­nity as well. I have a new fa­vorite com­pan­ion for the fern: the Span­ish blue­bell.

The Span­ish blue­bell, like many other plants. has gone through some name changes in both the com­mon name and the botan­i­cal name, which is now Hy­acinthoides his­pan­ica. True to its name it is na­tive to Spain, Por­tu­gal and north­ern Africa, and can make a home in your gar­den too.

At the Coastal Ge­or­gia Botan­i­cal Gar­dens we have a nice es­tab­lished drift, or patch of the South­ern maiden­hair fern grow­ing in our cot­tage gar­den. The Span­ish blue­bell, which is also called wood hy­acinth, has es­tab­lished well in the same area.

The have any­where from 2 to 6 strapped leaves that pro­duce a sturdy stalk adorned with from 12 to 15 blue, bell-shaped flow­ers. They stand out in dra­matic fash­ion against a sea of what ap­pears to be slightly char- treuse green from the fern’s lacy fo­liage.

The Span­ish blue­bells is rec­om­mended for a large area from zones 3 through 8, mean­ing most of the coun­try can en­joy grow­ing them. Af­ter the blooms are fin­ished we leave them alone, as is rec­om­mended for a nar­cis­sus or daf­fodil, as they make food re­serves for next year’s blos­soms. Then in mid-sum­mer the fo­liage will re­treat to make its re­turn the fol­low­ing spring.

While I’ve been tout­ing this com­bi­na­tion with the na­tive South­ern maiden­hair, know that it too is hardy over a wide area of the United States. It is known botan­i­cally as Adi­antum capil­lus-veneris and is na­tive to more than 20 states, plus Puerto Rico and Bri­tish Columbia.

You may be sur­prised to know they are found as far north as South Dakota. So those of you who have trea­sured the thought that you had cor­nered your lit­tle patch of green par­adise will have to know that you are not alone.

The del­i­cate look­ing fronds vary in height, top­ping out at about a foot and a half with an equal spread thanks to the slow - creep­ing rhi­zome. So you will want to plant sev­eral to get your patch go­ing.

They are de­cid­u­ous and re­quire or­ganic rich, well-drained soil. Pro­vid­ing sup­ple­men­tal wa­ter dur­ing sum­mer’s droughty pe­ri­ods is es­sen­tial and will keep them not only grow­ing, but look­ing their best. This is a great fern for shade but also per­forms su­perbly in part shade or those ar­eas with a lit­tle morn­ing sun.

Your choice of com­pan­ion plants is only limited by your imag­i­na­tion. In ad­di­tion to the Span­ish blue­bells they are ever so pic­turesque along a tiny stream or bab­bling brook. No hosta collection would be com­plete with­out a heavy com­ple­ment of ferns, and by all means sev­eral patches of the South­ern maiden­hair.

Try them with other shade lovers like im­pa­tiens, be­go­nias, cal­a­di­ums and coleus. The Choco­late Mint coleus and South­ern maiden­hair fern would make an ab­so­lute dreamy part­ner­ship. Lastly, if you find yourself with a shady porch pa­tio or deck know that a container or two with this fern will of­fer a most unique and ap­pre­ci­ated leaf tex­ture wher­ever they are placed.

Spring is erupt­ing in the South and is headed your way, so make this the year you in­cor­po­rate this pic­turesque na­tive fern and per­haps the Span­ish blue­bell as a choice com­pan­ion.

MCT PHOTO

The South­ern maiden­hair ferns are na­tive to 24 states in­clud­ing Puerto Rico and Bri­tish Columbia. Here it is in a pic­turesque spring set­ting with Span­ish blue­bells.

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