Posted on | August 23, 2008 | No Comments
When I moved into my house way back in 1982, apart from the large amount of borage, brambles and couch grass, there were several old clumps of the common Male fern Dryopteris filix-mas and some of those ancient clumps are still in the garden today.
Along with bracken this is the commonest British fern, found in most wooded areas in Norfolk. This delightful and tough native fern forms a large clump of lance-shaped, mid-green fronds to a height of 1–1.2m (3–4ft) by 1m (3.3in) with green midribs. Another native fern often found in our gardens and one of my favourites is the Hart’s Tongue Fern Asplenium scolopendrium.
This enchanting fern has short creeping rhizomes and grows to a height of 45-70cm (18- 28in) with irregular shuttlecock-like crowns of strap-like leathery, glossy, bright green fronds, often with wavy margins on short stems. There are several other forms worth trying like ‘Crispum’ with more wavy edges to the frond and ‘Cristatum’ another superb fern, with much more divided fronds, each ending in a spreading crest.
Blechnum chilense from Chile and Argentina is a very exotic looking, architectural evergreen fern with magnificent thick, leathery, dark green fronds. It also has creeping rhizomes, which can sometimes become erect and trunk-like with age; growing to a height 90-150cm (36-60in) though much less in dry situations. The Chain ferns, Woodwardia species are very dramatic ferns for the garden.
The European chain fern Woodwardia radicans from South West Europe, Madeira and the Canaries is a spectacular fern that can reach 1.8m (6ft) by 3m (10ft) or more in favourable conditions, with arching broadly lance-shaped, mid-to-dark green fronds up to 2m (6ft) long, with conspicuous bulbils/plantlets on the frond tips which readily root when they touch the ground, hence the common name Chain fern.
Although considered only hardy down to about 23°F (–5°C) I have been growing it above a waterfall at the Exotic Garden for many years with only light damage to the fronds in a cold winter. It gives a very tropical feel to the garden, especially when well established, forming mounding colonies with time. On a more diminutive scale are the Anthurium’s in a large genus of about 180 species of widely variable, deciduous, terrestrial ferns found in temperate to tropical regions around the world.
Athyrium niponicum from Eastern Asia grows to a height of 30- 35cm (12–14in) by 50-60cm (20–24in) with short, creeping reddish-brown rhizomes and lanceshaped, arching, silvery grey-green to midgreen, fronds with red-purple midribs and yellowish coloured stems. The form var. pictum (Japanese painted fern) is a truly stunning fern and one of the showiest for the exotic garden, electrifying shady areas, having fronds in a soft shade of metallic silver-grey with hints of red and blue, while var. pictum ‘Ursula’s Red,’ has superb red-pink and silver fronds developing a blackish-red central stripe as they mature.
Unfortunately I can only mention a very small number of this amazing family of prehistoric plants here, but if you would like to find out more about ferns there are many excellent books available at your local bookshop so you can create your own fernery in every shade of green going.