Timeless ferns?Read:? Top 5 Ferns For Your Garden ?

Forget about playing second fiddle?ferns are taking on a starring role, bringing timeless beauty and superb texture to any garden. GL?s Marjorie Harris picks five of her favourites.

Ferns first caught the public’s fancy about a decade ago when varieties we?d never seen before appeared in nurseries. Now they?ve taken off into the stratosphere. To be fernless is to be bereft in the garden.
Ferns are among the most ancient plants on Earth and have changed little since they were browsed by dinosaurs. Although they have no showy or vulgar flowers, their complex organic shapes in multitudinous shades of green are always fascinating. They are plants you want to watch, from the tiny emerging snouts of fiddleheads through sensual unfurling fronds to huge feathery wands. They are also the perfect way to add dimension to a shady garden and are amazingly flexible in their uses.

In nature, ferns are found in and around trees and shrubs, along riverbanks and nestled between stones. In the garden, their placement should echo these situations. If you don?t have a riverbank, put them near a pond or water feature. Intermingle them with native plants in a woodland, or combine them with spring and summer bulbs in a shrub border. In my garden, I have Japanese painted ferns next to a stand of camas (Camassia) and, when the camas? bright blue blooms have finished, the ferns do a yeoman cover-up of the fading foliage. You can also mass ferns for an effective ground cover (and they will help prevent soil erosion), or mix them with perennials, especially hostas, to make a show-stopping moment in a shady border.

Companion plant tip
Ferns are lovely on their own but mingle very well with other shade-lovers. When combining ferns with other plants, look for foliage contrasts in texture and shape (thick-leaved hostas, scalloped-edged coralbells, long-bladed lungworts and grassy sedges, for example). To ensure a good colour combo, pick out one colour in the fern (the red stems or the silver fronds perhaps) and choose a companion plant that echoes that colour.


  • Give ferns well-drained, slightly acidic soil, with lots of organic matter such as compost or manure. The moister the soil, the better the reproduction (they reproduce by spores, which love dampness), but it must not be waterlogged. One exception is the male or wood fern (Dryopteris), which will tolerate drier soil.
  • Ferns like open shade, not dark, dank corners. Even a couple of hours of sun won?t hurt them as long as there?s consistent moisture.
  • Split and/or transplant them in autumn or early spring. Just be sure to put them back into the earth at the same level you took them out.
  • You can also grow ferns in pots. Use containers at least 16 inches in diameter and as deep, filled with a
    nice humusy soil. Combine them with pots of hostas, foamflowers and Solomon?s seal.

?Read:? Top 5 Ferns For Your Garden ?