You can have a va­ri­ety of ferns in your gar­den

The Progress-Index - At Home - - BETTY MONTGOMERY - By Betty Mont­gomery Betty Mont­gomery, au­thor and mas­ter gar­dener, can be reached at BMont­[email protected]

The Au­tumn Fern is of a va­ri­ety of ferns you can plant in your gar­den. Ferns are the quin­tes­sen­tial shade plant. They come in a wide as­sort­ment of shapes and sizes. Be­cause of the di­ver­sity of ferns, you can have a va­ri­ety of them in your gar­den. Ferns can have a del­i­cate tex­ture or a bold coarse-look, they can be feath­ery or stiff, glossy or a dull tone, ev­er­green or de­cid­u­ous. They come in many dif­fer­ent shades of green and there are even ones with cop­per-colored new growth and oth­ers with bronze fronds in the fall. Plus, if this is not enough, they are deer re­sis­tant.

Ferns pre­fer soil that is rich in or­ganic mat­ter and is well drained but soil that does not dry out com­pletely. Most ferns grow be­tween two to three feet tall. How­ever, there are royal ferns and os­trich ferns that can grow to six feet tall.

Most ferns do well in part shade or dap­pled sun­light, but there are some that will do well in a lit­tle bit more sun, pro­vided they get enough wa­ter. A hot sum­mer day can seem cooler when you have ferns min­gled among your other plants or just masses of ferns.

Re­cently, I had the de­light­ful plea­sure of go­ing to a nurs­ery I had heard about for years but had just not taken the time to visit. Plants-a-Plenty, lo­cated off of High­way 221 and High­way 74 near Ruther­ford­ton, North Carolina. is worth the trip. Wayne Hutchins not only has a won­der­ful as­sort­ment of ferns but all kinds of shade plants. I went to pur­chase a Hi­malayan Maiden­hair fern, which I knew he had. Af­ter see­ing what all he grows for the shade gar­den, I plan to re­turn soon.

Some of the ferns that are eas­ier to grow are listed be­low but ven­ture out and try some of the oth­ers. Be sure to add or­ganic ma­te­rial to the soil and an old rot­ten, de­cay­ing piece of wood in the bot­tom of the hole will give the ferns some­thing to hold to.

Christ­mas ferns (Polystichum acros­ti­choides) are a sta­ple in the Southeast. They are adapted to a wide range of con­di­tions, from very dry to moist, and are hardy to Zone 3. The fronds grow one to two feet tall and are de­pend­ably ev­er­green. How­ever, dur­ing the win­ter months the fronds lie flat on the ground. Few hardy ferns have this beau­ti­ful deep, glossy green fo­liage. You can see them grow­ing along the side of the road on steep shady banks in damp places.

Holly ferns (Cyr­tomium fal­ca­tu­mis) are a popular fern, es­pe­cially in warmer cli­mates where it is ev­er­green. Holly ferns are very tol­er­ant plants and with­stand heat and drought more than some oth­ers. How­ever, they are not adapted to be­ing planted in a sunny spot. They pre­fer shady con­di­tions. Holly ferns are stiffer and more erect than other ferns and the shiny green fronds add tex­ture to a gar­den. Where I live at Cam­po­bello, they are de­cid­u­ous but in Spar­tan­burg they are of­ten ev­er­green.

Cin­na­mon ferns (Os­mundas­trum cin­namo­meum) have a dra­matic ar­chi­tec­tural form and can make a strik­ing fo­cal point in any gar­den. They grow in our woods and along shady stream banks and ditches where the soil is moist and even boggy. They typ­i­cally grow in clumps but if they are happy they can col­o­nize, mak­ing a large area of th­ese strik­ing ferns. The fer­tile fronds ap­pear first as sil­very, furry fid­dle­heads, very stiff and erect with a cov­er­ing that is cin­na­mon colored. Th­ese ferns usu­ally reach about three feet but can get as taller over time.

Maiden­hair ferns are del­i­cate and dainty and are my fa­vorite. There are many dif­fer­ent kinds of maiden­hair ferns and I will men­tion the two that are read­ily avail­able.

North­ern maiden­hair (Adi­antum pe­da­tum) has five fin­gers with del­i­cate cut leaf tis­sue. The ap­pear­ance is el­e­gant and grace­ful with a fan-like ap­pear­ance that is rather unique. I love the light, airy look and the del­i­cate tex­ture of this plant. The way the dainty leaflets are at­tached to a tall, wiry dark stem makes it stand out from other ferns. The plant is usu­ally about 18” to 24’ tall and it will thrive in moist rich or­ganic soil.

South­ern maiden­hair (Adi­antum capil­lus-veneris) is more known for its un­usual airy fo­liage and del­i­cate ap­pear­ance. This fern is very frag­ile and grace­ful with the lacy fo­liage that flut­ters with the slight­est breeze. You of­ten see this maiden­hair fern sold as a house-plant. How­ever, th­ese are not as cold hardy and do not sur­vive our win­ters in zone 7. Spe­cialty nurs­eries carry a South­ern maiden­hair fern that is cold hardy and the one you need to find.

Au­tumn ferns are the rage now and for a good rea­son. They are easy-to-grow and they make a two-foot wide clump in a short time. The new fronds are a lovely cop­per color as they emerge and the fall color can be dra­matic, depend­ing on which one you buy. There are some new ones avail­able that have bril­liant shades in the fall. Bril­liance, Koidzu­mi­ana, Gold Mist are three of the newer ones but I have only seen pho­tos of them.

This just be­gins to touch on the many dif­fer­ent ferns that are grown in our area. Start by vis­it­ing a gar­den with ferns dis­played or a gar­den cen­ter where they spe­cial­ize in shade plants and you will be amazed by the ar­ray of won­der­ful ferns that will add beauty to any shade gar­den.

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