When I did my last post on ferns in 2019 I hadn’t covered all the ferns I grow and intended to return to the subject soon. It didn’t happen. I recently updated my ferns list and realised that I’d in fact mentioned less than half of those I have now, not all of which are recent additions. Time for another bite. All of the earlier posts will come up now if you select the category of Ferns.
Dryopteris affinis ‘Crispa Gracilis’.
As a common native fern it is unsurprising that the male fern has spawned a good number of forms. This one is relatively dwarf and dense, with almost vertical fronds. It isn’t my favourite in that it lacks the elegance that makes most ferns attractive but it is chunky and a nice light green in colour. I have been growing it under the name D. affinis ‘Crispa Congesta’ but that is apparently a synonym. It is around 40 cm tall.
Polypodium vulgare ‘Bifido Multifida’.
James Treseder at Treseder’s Nursery is very keen on ferns and always has a good range at the nursery. This was one of three I purchased on a recent visit. Polypodium vulgare is extremely common around my local area, with all the road verges and walls having stands of it growing in them. The wild form appeared spontaneously in the garden and has grown quite well in a crack in the brickwork of a low shady wall. I planted this form, with it’s divided frond tips, just a few feet away. It’s interesting rather than visually stunning, which is fine; I don’t want a garden full of prima donnas.
This was a fern I purchased by mail order from an Irish nursery a few years ago. They no longer send plants to the UK because of the complexities of Brexit, unfortunate since they had a good range and there are others I might have bought. This has grown quite slowly for me, with hard foliage that seems to last for at least two years, which is as well as it hasn’t produced a large number of new fronds. The foliage is glossy, wide spreading and handsome.
I take a perverse pleasure from finding something that isn’t in the Richie Steffen & Sue Olsen book of ferns; it suggests I’ve got hold of something rare and hopefully a bit special. I don’t even remember where I picked up this fern but I remember being struck by it looking rather distinctive, not much like any of the other ferns I have. It is in a very small pot and has not increased much in size since I bought it. Looking it up on the internet, I hit on a Wikipedia entry in Cebuano, a language I’d not come across, spoken in the Southern Philipines. It also occurs in China, Taiwan, India, Vietnam and Nepal. It appears to be almost non-existent in cultivation and I wish I’d taken more notice of where and from whom I’d bought it. As in, I wonder what else they have.
Polystichum setiferum ‘Bevis’.
Polystichum setiferum, the soft shield fern, throws up 241 results from a search on the RHS website. Unsurprisingly, as much as there is diversity within the species, there are a lot of similar looking cultivars as well. ‘Bevis’ is widely available and is one of the most highly regarded forms, though it is taxonomically a Group rather than a single clone. My plant has grown well and is about 90cm tall.
Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosodensum’.
According to my book, this is a member of the Plumosomultilobum Group. It is quadripinnate which makes for a very billowy effect on its near horizontal fronds. It is evergreen but with especially attractive new growth arising from the old crown and its density and delicacy makes removing the old fronds all but impossible. A very beautiful fern. It has once produced a crop of bulbils from which I was able to raise a few more plants but most years there are none.
This was one that I acquired at a rare plant fair and that is likely to be the best sort of place to find it, there being only a handful of nurseries that offer it. It has much the same habit of growth as Asplenium scolopendrium, the hart’s tongue fern, but the leathery leaves are felted when new and very dark sub-glossy green at maturity. It somehow manages to be a subdued member of a subdued plant group yet still have a touch of the exotic about it. Its natural habitat, in China, Taiwan and Vietnam, is growing on rocks and trees, which gives it good drought tolerance if growing in a porous compost. I still have my slow growing plant in its original pot but it is likely to be moved somewhere more permanent this season.