Why do we take ferns for granted ? Are they the Switzerland of the plant world ? Everyone is neutral towards them… nobody professes to hate them. A few fanatics love them, and I am becoming one of those people. It began long ago.
I remember travelling to England when I was sixteen years old, and stumbling into an antiquarian book/print seller in Oxford. I bought four amazing botanical prints of ferns , (for five pounds each) and I still have them. One is of my favourite – Phyllitis scolopendrium, the ‘Hart’s Tongue ‘ fern. It turns out that my prints are from a very famous book called ‘London Planiflorus’ and are quite valuable !
The ‘Hart’s Tongue’ fern is a lovely evergreen, producing a new set of fronds every year. It looks best if you clip off all of last years fronds just when the new ones are unfurling. It grows happiest in moist shade, but will survive in sun as well. Brighter light creates a bleached-out look to the entire plant. This fern self-sows in rock walls in England, and often in the sun. You may find unusual forms of Hart’s Tongue ferns by looking thoroughly at nurseries’ offerings. I have collected about a dozen different crested/lacinated/ruffled ones. I grow them in pots in the shade . They survive unprotected in our zone 8 winters.
There are thousands of other ferns, hundreds that are hardy for us, and dozens of available species and selected forms for sale at nurseries. Think about ferns for design solutions in your own garden or patio spaces. Sophisticated, understated and generally pest-free , these survivors deserve a place in every landscape.
When you think about it, ferns have been around for millions of years, and pre-date mankind entirely. I’d try to stay on their good side .