The following is a lightly edited reprint of a story I wrote for the Summer issue of the Hardy Fern Foundation Quarterly. It follows a set formula for this regular fern feature, where members write about the ferns growing in their gardens. At nearly 2,000 words it is a lot longer than one of my usual blog posts, but I wanted to share it to give an idea of the in-depth articles you can enjoy as a member of the foundation—which is not just a PNW group! The HFF website is a wealth of information, and members have access to suburb online programing as well as fern sales and free admission to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington. Become a member of the HFF! On to the story...
While I’m the gardener behind the blog “danger garden” and thus known as that crazy lady who grows agaves Oregon, I am also a lover of ferns—or rather I’ve become one. I came late to this particular group of plants; in part because of over-exposure to the common Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) at a young and impressionable age.
|I do have sword ferns in my garden now though...|
I grew up on the dry side of Washington State, in Spokane, but we’d camp along the coast and up into the Olympic Peninsula and it felt like my mom stopped to admire every sword fern we passed. I thought it was the only fern there was! However, once I discovered there were many more ferns—and let’s face it, as my maturing garden became shadier and shadier—I was hooked. Now my trips to a plant sale, or one of our local specialty nurseries, usually result in a new fern or two, along with a choice agave or cactus. I shop both ends of the plant spectrum.
In writing this story for the HFF Quarterly I do feel like a bit of an imposter though, after all I’ve never grown ferns from spore. Another thing; I’m generally at ease with botanical Latin, but when it comes to fern names, forget it. Many of them are just too much for my brain to remember, let alone pronounce. A memorable moment of embarrassment occurred when Sue Olsen [coauthor of The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns] visited my garden as part of a tour and complimented a Cheilanthes tomentosa growing in my front garden. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, looking at my blank face she understood and kindly elaborated.
Adiantum aleuticum, Western maidenhair fern. I inherited this fern from the previous owner of the garden. Once exposed (it was languishing behind a mass of overgrown sword ferns) it has thrived. Over the summer I have to be sure water reaches the back of the planting bed where it grows, as it wants water! Grown on the north side of our garage in full shade.
|Adiantum aleuticum, Western maidenhair fern|
Adiantum venustum, Himalayan maidenhair fern. This is an indispensable green carpet that helps me achieve the illusion that bromeliads “grow” in my garden year-round. It’s perfect for disguising their pots when I drop them in place once the weather warms. I’ve read that it can be cut back hard in the spring but I’ve never done so, instead just letting the underlayers naturally decompose. A friend once said “I see you’re suffering the scourge too”, pointing at this fern—as it does have a tendency to spread. One gardener’s trash is another gardener’s treasure! Grown on the north side of our garage and receives a little late afternoon sun.
|Adiantum venustum, Himalayan maidenhair fern "carpet"|
Arachniodes simplicior 'Variegata', variegated East Indian holly fern. Everyone who visits my garden remarks on this fern, I’m convinced it’s not more widely grown because it doesn’t look great in a nursery pot. I do trim off the older fronds periodically, as the variegated stripe can start to turn a brassy gold that I don’t care for. Grown as a foundation plant on the west side of our house—morning shade and afternoon sun, although shaded in the hottest part of the day.
|Arachniodes simplicior 'Variegata', variegated East Indian holly fern|
Asplenium trichomanes, maidenhair spleenwort. Simply the perfect little fern for tucking in everywhere. I’ve seen it growing happily in a rock crevice, in my fern bowl (similar to a fern table) and of course in the ground in my garden. I can’t say specifically where this one is growing, as it’s all around the garden.
Athyrium otophorum, eared lady fern. I sometimes forget about this fern, as it appears a little later in the spring than others in my garden. Once it does finally show up, it positively glows. Grown part shade and soil that tends to be a little on the dry side.
|Athyrium otophorum, eared lady fern|
Blechnum chilense/ Parablechnum cordatum, Chilean hard fern. Such dramatic arching fronds! I started with this plant in a large planter, as I’d been warned of its tendency to spread when happy. Since it’s march has been slow, I’ve since planted it in the ground as well, with no problems—well, other than when a rabbit decided it was nice to much on. Grown in part shade/part sun with regular water.
|Blechnum chilense/ Parablechnum cordatum, Chilean hard fern|
Blechnum penna-marina/ Austroblechnum penna-marina, alpine water fern. Speaking of a tendency to spread! I appreciate the free plants though, and find the colorful new growth especially lovely. Plants I’d newly planted out just prior to the Heat Dome last June looked like they were dead come August, but they’re coming back this year. Grown in several places, the ones that receive the most sun are also the most colorful.
|Blechnum penna-marina/ Austroblechnum penna-marina, alpine water fern|
Coniogramme gracilis, narrow-leaf bamboo fern. This is the most robust of the Coniogramme I grow. I have two in containers and they’ve bulked up quickly and are the earliest coniogramme to emerge in the springtime. Grown in containers in mostly shade.
|Coniogramme gracilis, narrow-leaf bamboo fern|
Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group, soft shield fern. This one is super easy-going and adds such an interesting texture. Grown in dappled shade.
|Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group, soft shield fern|
Woodwardia unigemmata, while the fronds on my jeweled chain fern aren’t as large as others I’ve seen, I don’t care. That color and form is welcome at whatever size they achieve. I have a couple growing in almost full morning sun, several others in almost full shade—they’re all lovely. I think they’d been happier with more water, but I am fairly stingy with that resource. Grown all over my garden.
|Dryopteris sieboldii, Siebold’s wood fern —still doing well! Look at all that sporangium|
|Onoclea sensibilis, newly emerged|
|Bommeria hispida, copper fern|
|Cheilanthes argentea, silver cloak fern|
|Lemmaphyllum microphyllum, Japanese bean fern|
|Pyrrosia sheareri, Shearer's felt fern|