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Saturday, 11 April 2009

Ferns for Dry Shade

Not all ferns need damp conditions. Some naturally grow in very dry parts of woods and these are especially useful for planting in dry soil beneath trees, next to walls, or a fillers or underplanting for containers.

1. Toughest of all is the male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). It’s deciduous with typically divided ferny leaves, disappearing completely from autumn till spring. This British native grows around 60cm but there are several more ornamental forms that only reach half this size.
2. Hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum). A bold evergreen forming plants around 30cm tall and 60cm across.

3. Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum). A big evergreen fern growing about 90cm across and almost as tall. The variety ‘Divisilobum’ grows almost flat.
4. Golden scale fern (Dryopteris affinis ). Interesting habit of remaining evergreen for most of the winter and then flopping in early spring before the new fronds unfurl. The shuttlecock form ‘Polydactyla’ is particularly striking.
5. Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). If you’ve ever seen the tongue of deer, the fronds are about the size and shape. It’s evergreen and seems totally unbothered about what soil it grows in.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Readers should note that many of the ready planted window boxes and container gardens at little green space contain different types of fern and add shape and structure to the overall effect. (tip from the litle green space ladybird).

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