Perennials 101, Perennials for Special Purposes
1. SOME FERN FACTS
Ferns are valuable garden plants of great dependability and beauty. Their leaves, known as fronds, can be lacy or leathery, plain green or variegated, providing a long season of interest. Rarely suffering from pests and diseases, they offer trouble-free elegance.
Ferns were tremendously popular in Victorian times, and many of the British well-to-do had ferneries — shady garden areas devoted to vast fern collections. As modern gardeners become more aware of the value of foliage texture in their landscapes, they are rediscovering the refreshing diversity of hardy ferns. Naturally inhabiting woodland areas, ferns thrive in the shade offered by trees during the heat of summer. They perform best in a moist, well drained soil, high in organic matter. Providing appropriate soil conditions for ferns will reward you with healthy, vigorous plants.
There are numerous kinds of hardy ferns available in garden centers. Many fern species are deciduous, dying back to the ground for winter. Others are evergreen, providing attractive winter foliage in the garden, or brought indoors for cut-flower arrangements.
In Zones 2 through 6 the evergreen types often become more semi-evergreen in habit. Ferns vary in texture and height as well; some forming a low spreading mound, while others create a bold upright clump. With such a range, even the smallest garden can have a woodland feeling by planting a few ferns along with other moist-shade lovers such as Hostas, Primroses and Astilbes.
2. Tips on planting and care
Fern care is relatively easy. Ferns require moist, humus rich soil. If your soil is poor, dig in 4 to 6 inches of well-rotted compost or peat moss. This will provide a loose, water-retentive soil in which ferns can thrive. Ferns do well under trees, but tree roots (especially maples and many evergreens) may rob the soil of water and nutrients. Also, rain may not penetrate the branch canopy. You may have to provide regular watering to these areas if you want to grow ferns there. This is especially critical just after planting until the ferns becomes established. It is a good idea to mulch around your ferns with compost or leaf litter once a year. This will improve the soil, keep the roots cool and help to retain moisture. Where winters are very cold, cover ferns with boughs or mulch in the fall to protect them. Evergreen ferns may look somewhat tattered by late winter; if so, trim off any unsightly foliage in early spring.
3. Some Hardy Ferns to look for:
This is just a small sampling of the hardy ferns now available. Our online Perennial Search will help you to locate many more. Simply type the word ferninto the box and click “search”.