Thursday, July 6, 2017

Building a fern table: watching the professional in action and a follow-up on how mine's doing...

Back when I wrote about building my fern table (May 26th), I mentioned a workshop with Richie Steffen that I planned to attend at Joy Creek Nursery. That workshop finally took place last weekend, it was great fun.

Richie educated and entertained us while building a stunning fern table. I jotted down a few of his "helpful hints" which I'll share below, along with close up photos of the completed planting. Had I been thinking about this post I would have taken a photo as he began by mounding up soil on the cement slab and then arranging bits of wood around the edge. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Since this installation was built quite a distance from where it will live at the nursery, Richie's final step was to wrap it with fishing line so the staff could easily transport it. If you're building "in place" at home you don't necessarily need to do this, and once the roots of the plants all knit together it will be much more stable.

That little varigated number in the corner is Chiastophyllum oppositifolium 'Jim's Best' (or 'Jim's Pride'). Cute huh?

I love how many plants Richie managed to shove into this planting. Cramscaping at its best! I heard a few gasps as he tore and smashed roots to get the plants where he wanted them. I think I'm much harder on my plants than the average gardener. I blame it on the easy-to-abuse Agaves, they've ruined me for wimpy plants.

There was originally a piece of wood where these rocks are now. It wasn't cooperating so it got tossed aside and the rocks were built up to take its place. I see a mini-crevice garden in the making...

Richie mentioned he'll change out poor-performers as a new table settles in, if one or two of the original plants aren't cutting it. He sometimes even tucks in a tropical fern, and then lifts it before winter, or just treats it as an annual.

If you can't find suitable chunks of wood for your fern table Richie described a method of creating "moss logs" by rolling up soil in burlap, tying the ends, and covering the entire thing with moss. (I love this idea) He also confessed to wiring pieces of wood together, to create a sort of stump centerpiece.

A mix of evergreen and herbaceous plants will add a "seasonality" to your planting.

And tucking in spring flowering bulbs, like Crocus, will add another seasonal touch. Beware they may be a one-time wonder under these conditions.

Normally bits of moss would be tucked into any open crevices in the planting. However since he was short of moss Richie instead used small twigs covered in lichen. It's a good look...

This small Cardamine trifolia was one of the plants pulled for use in the workshop, which didn't get used. It's pretty fabulous don't you think? (note to self for future shady groundcover needs)

Here's a current look at my fern table, which was built on May 23rd.

It's withstood lots of 80 degree days, a few 90 degree days and even a couple 100+ days, and is still looking fabulous. I just hose it down when I'm watering the other plants in the area, no "special" treatment.

I still love it as much as the day I built it.

This whole corner still makes me very happy...

Of course I had to pick up a new fern at Joy Creek, since I was there. Meet Dryopteris filix-mas 'Linearis Polydactyla', and wish me luck, I hear the slugs love it.

Weather Diary, July 5: Hi 91, Low 58/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2017 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

28 comments:

  1. I tend to be hard on the roots of plants when I plant them too, so many are root-bound. They say "Check out the roots and if it's root-bound, don't buy it," but what if it's a plant you really want or need? I'm always mercilessly chopping off circling roots. Fun class, great teacher! I had forgotten that moss log tip! I'm still collecting bits for my own fern table.

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    1. I couldn't agree more! If its a plant I want I'm going to buy it in spite of how poorly it was grown (as evidence my recent Agave post).

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  2. Art with ferns! I really do love ferns. They were reasonably happy in my old garden 15 miles away but it was a good deal more shady and at least 10 degrees cooler most summer days. I've yet to find a way to make them happy here but, now that the tree-hater is gone, maybe I can build up my shade quotient.

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    1. Shade will change your garden but certainly allow to you include some great plants.

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  3. Ferns are beautiful plants Several types of them grow spontaneously in shaded areas of my garden and also on the trunks of my palm trees. I've been placing dead tree trunks in those shaded and humid areas to encourage their growth. Greetings from Argentina.

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    1. Ferns in palm tree trunks, what a great sight!

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  4. Richie is a fun presenter and his fern tables are fab but you got great result even before taking the class! Chiastophyllum oppositifolium 'Jim's Best' is new to me; a variegated succulent for shade - who knew?

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    1. Right? I should have bought one of Jim's best...

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  5. My eyes are now open for fun, rotty wood, the collection has started! A plus, we're moving a few doors down the end of the month to a casita that has a fenced yard for the dogs and more shade for my imagined table. Now I just have to find a nursery to buy some plants, details...

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    1. Moving already!? But it sounds like an upgrade. Good luck with the plant hunting.

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  6. Pretty cool! Don't many (all?) ferns spread though? Seems like this would quickly (in a year or two) be crowded out?

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    1. The tables I've seen in nurseries (both Joy Creek and Swansons, in Seattle) seem to be doing great years out. We shall see!

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  7. Love it ...this is my kind of " playing in the garden " fun ! :)

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    1. There is definitely an element of kid fun to building one of these.

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  8. I love these fern tables but I can't quite figure out where to put one in my garden. I think since I have so many ferns in the ground it seems a little silly to do a project like this. But I do have a low planter that's still empty . . . .hhhm. I've been growing Linearis polydactila since 1995. It will make a huge clump and you can cut off chunks where you see it forming a separate clump to make new plants. I must have 15 or more big clumps from my 2 originals. I have never had a slug problem or any pest bother it.

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    1. Good to know slugs haven't been an issue for you! Your low planter sounds like an opportunity...

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  9. Different climate, different world. What is this "moss" of which you speak?

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    1. Did I ever mention the moss that was growing on my old VW Bug?

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  10. Asked to make a list of the plants Richie used in this fern table, I was surprised at how many there were (21, to be exact). We have several at the nursery from past workshops. They just get better and better with time.

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    1. 21! Wow, I don't think I would have guessed that many. And yes, I've featured those old tables here a couple of times. They are grand!

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  11. I like it! Like Linda, I have so many ferns growing in the ground, but I like the idea of combining a bunch of plants in a form like this. Maybe for a future project...

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    1. Gardeners will always have future projects, won't they?

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  12. The ones who gasp at rough treatment make me laugh. These fern tables look like so much fun. Yours is still looking great, as well as the larger vignette around it.

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    1. I have a trio of Agave parryi that have been sitting in my driveway, roots exposed, for going on two months now, while I decided what to do with them. They couldn't care less. It's plant abuse central around here.

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  13. Across the pond somebody else is learning from him via you! Moss log - love the idea! Your fern table is looking great, settled and established!

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    1. Thanks! You guys could become the local fern table experts...

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  14. That was fun. Great photos!

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  15. Love seeing how your corner is settling in - it looks terrific!

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