Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ferns -- Light Your Shade

Ferns (Dryopteris, the formal name) have been around for 400 million years or longer. The proof can be found in shale and other rock fossils. This tree fern is a favorite of mine. I've watched it die and come back to life for ten or twelve seasons on a tree located close to my driveway.

Often, the leaves will shrivel because the weather is too cold or too hot, but it always comes back. Amazingly, it sprang back when it appeared to be completely dead and I had thought about using ferns as an earlier blog. Ferns and I go back a long way to when I was nine or ten exploring the dense forests and creek beds on our property.

I didn't plant the fern pictured above, it's in the front of my house. It's grown here several years, as a volunteer, I think because it likes the location on the northeast side of my house or maybe because it knows my fondness of ferns.

There are around 12,000 species of ferns, the majority growing in the tropics, but Georgia is home to 119 species, and if you have a fertile, shady corner in your yard, they are the perfect match to grow in this niche with hostas, bleeding hearts, astibiles, violets and other shady favorites.

I am certainly no expert on ferns, but the best time to plant them is in autumn and spring. There are three requirements to insure happy ferns; filtered shade, moisture, and well drained soil high in organic matter (OK...that might be four). If your planning a shady garden next to the house, ferns like a northeast side, protecting the ferns from the wind and sunlight.

Ferns can be propagated in three different ways depending on the species of crown forming, rhizomatous roots, and rock ferns. As seen above the spores underneath the leaves of this Southern Wood Fern can be dried and planted in the right spot of your choosing.

A Pine Fern is pictured above, although it's not as rare as I thought, it doesn't grow everywhere or in many Georgia woods.

Once established, most ferns don't need care or water unless the soil drys out. Mulch with leaf mold compost or peat moss, just like you see in the woods during the year.

I cheated with these ferns and bought them at "Country Gardens" years ago. They are planted at the back of my house under the deck and are six or seven years old. Each year they come back like the first year I planted them.

Although these dependable, plants with arching fronds and cool green colors don't bloom, they add grace and beauty to a shady spot that once was bare.

As Theodore Roethke said, "Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."

Until next time.........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

1 comment:

  1. I do love gardening so much and it is one of my passion. Ferns are very nice they adds beauty on a garden. I have a garden at the our backyard and I never forget to put ferns on it. Thanks for the share and I can't wait to see more.