Focus on Ferns – 3

It has mostly been a dry spring and this has slowed the progress of several of my ferns. As with most plants that do most of their growing in a short burst in spring, they expect to have abundant water available to them and can be hard hit if it is not.

Athyrium nipponicum ‘Red Beauty’.
A cursory look at the images thrown up by Google suggests that this is either a very variable fern or that there are a number of different things being sold under the same name. Some of the pictures look very like mine but most don’t. I no longer remember when, where or from whom I bought my plant so even if I concluded it was miss-sold, I can do nothing about it.
My plant is essentially green, with dark stems that it would take considerable imagination to see as red. Most web images show a silver fronded plant with purple-red stems.
My plant hasn’t had an easy life, it is growing in a dense bluebell patch, fine once they have died down in June but a significant impediment to it getting going in spring. It is deciduous and gets about a foot high. It is spreading slowly, the clump is about a foot across in what is I think its fourth year. In last year’s very hot summer it struggled somewhat but didn’t die down completely as did ‘Burgundy Glow’.

Athyrium ‘Ghost’.
Like ‘Ocean’s Fury’, which was in my last ferns post, this is a presumed hybrid between A. nipponicum ‘Pictum’ and A. filix-femina. My fern book says it can get to 3 feet tall and I very much hope it does. So far I have not seen half that but this is still a lovely light grey-green, fine textured plant which stands out well in a shady spot amongst darker foliage. It seems to have suffered more from a dry spring this year than it did from the dry summer last year, presumably because spring is when it is trying to do most of its growing.

Adiantum aleuticum ‘Imbricatum.
The hardy maidenhair ferns have a much tougher constitution than their delicate appearance suggests. My plant sits alongside Paesia scaberula, which is a fast spreading thug which I feared would overwhelm the Adiantum. Not at all, it turns out; the maidenhair puts up a dense forest of very slender stipes in spring and resists any incursion completely. The old growth needs to be cut down in late winter before the fragile new growth emerges and is by then turning brown. I have this growing where it gets a few hours of sun each day and it is making a dense clump which increases in size by a couple of inches a year. It grows a little over a foot tall.

Onychium japonicum. Carrot fern.
A not inappropriate common name, with the foliage somewhat carrot-like in appearance. Most of the very fine textured ferns seem to hold their fronds more or less horizontally so this is distinctive in being rather more upright. I have this growing in shade, in conditions that I think are a little dryer than ideal, the result being that it hasn’t increased much in the few years it has been with me.

Cyrtomium falcatum. Japanese holly fern.
My plant of this was a rescued self sown sporeling and I regard it as one of my very best freebies. Very distinct from every other fern I grow with its dark green glossy leaves that are not the least ferny in character, its great virtue is to provide contrast with the finer leaved forms. The fronds get to about 2 feet in length and are evergreen, lasting for a couple of years at least, no bad thing as it doesn’t produce a great many new ones each season. I have this in full shade, which it needs, and in quite dry soil, which it tolerates.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris. Common oak fern.
My plant of this went from being a rapidly spreading carpet to almost dying out after I removed the tree that was providing it with shade. It ideally wants moist shade, will reluctantly endure dryness for a while and doesn’t want direct sun at all. In the right conditions it will make a good low groundcover, almost as light and airy in appearance as the maidenhairs, but much faster spreading. It reaches about 6 inches in height.

Athyrium filix-femina ‘Dre’s Dagger’.
Another added to my collection just today. I was taken by the unusual form of this fern with its crisscrossed pinnae and divided tips. It is one of the Cruciatocristatum Group, a subdivision of a species from which probably rather too many cultivars have been named. I need to find it a damp and shady spot where it should thrive with little help from me.

5 thoughts on “Focus on Ferns – 3

  1. All your ferns are beautiful. I must admit I am grateful for my self-seeded ones, they do add a lot of greenness and texture to the garden. I like your maidenhair variety, I never knew there was a hardy one. I always killed the indoor plants! Love the macro photo – forgot to say that on Saturday’s post. Your photos are a delight.


    1. My only complaint with our native ferns is that the commonest ones are the least interesting, ie male and broad buckler ferns. A good form of scaly male fern would hold its own in any company though. The hardy maiden hairs are very tough and versatile. Adiantum venustum, which looks very like the indoor varieties, is scarce because it’s not easy to propagate so is rarely offered for sale. I appreciate your comments about the photos, especially coming from you, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aloe vera is like the first fern; in the regard that so many species are marketed as such that no one knows what the real thing looks like. I do not believe that I have ever seen the real thing. The others are all nice anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ferns are at last getting a little rain here….love the maidenhair….will be on the lookout for one…..have seen one similar to the house one growing on some walls outside so will try to get a closer look and photograph. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


    1. I didn’t think we had a native maidenhair but I just checked and in fact we do. It’s rare and occurs on coastal cliffs, protected from severe exposure. Adiantum capillus-veneris. I just learned something. Adiantum venustum is the one to look out for.


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