This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
Ever since I was a young kid I have been drawn to ferns. Growing up in Southern California I collected many varieties and had a patio dedicated to them. I grew Australian and New Zealand tree ferns, multiple varieties of Maidenhair and Staghorn ferns, and hanging varieties like Rabbit’s Foot and Polypodium varieties, to name just a few.
One of my favorites was my Mother fern, which carried all of its babies on top of its fronds. I remember cutting off fronds and pinning them down to soil in a flat covered with a coat hanger and a plastic bag (think of a covered wagon).
I waited for six months, or longer, for the babies to send out roots and establish themselves as independent plants. For a 14-year-old kid this was absolute magic!
Ferns have been around since the dinosaurs and although they are botanically very primitive, they are nevertheless very well adapted to our climate.
Many of us are familiar with our native Western Sword fern and Deer fern (both of which are evergreen), and Lady ferns and Bracken ferns (which are deciduous and a bit on the weedy side, to say the least). Beyond these familiar varieties, there are so many more that deserve to be discovered and recognized - it’s always fun to discover new plants.
For the most part, ferns prefer a rich soil with lots of compost. They make great companions to other shade lovers, like hostas and astilbes.
There are so many ferns that I truly love that I would need to own a botanical garden to fit them all in, so when space is limited, I have to be really picky. While I do have a mental list of my favorites, recently I discovered a few new ones sitting on our benches at the nursery that came from Monrovia Nurseries.
They have introduced a new collection that they are calling their “Jurassic Series” and they are truly different. Their vigor and overall size are quite notable and I think they will be stars in any shade garden.
While they show five different varieties in their catalog, I have only seen three on our tables. Here’s more about them, in Monrovia’s words…
Jurassic™ T-Rex Wood Fern (Dryopteris tokyoensis) - Erect fronds ranging from dark to light green form a strikingly vertical clump for a bold and highly textural statement in a shaded garden. Especially handsome when grouped to frame a garden element or niche in architecture. Use to add height and dimension to a low border or brighten a woodland understory. Deciduous.
Jurassic™ Pterodactyl Eared Lady Fern (Athyrium otophorum) - Add airy, feathery texture to a shady spot with the arching fronds of this clump-forming fern. Pale green fronds unfurl from red stems, creating a two-toned look with the older, dark-green foliage. Excellent in a woodland garden combined with bold-leaved plants, such as hostas and brightly colored heucheras. An herbaceous perennial.
Jurassic™ Velociraptor Ribbon Fern (Pteris cretica) - Best grown in partial shade where it will form a burly, finely textured, compact clump, but also ideal for a container on a shaded terrace, or even in the home near a bright but not sunny window. Evergreen.
Check your local nursery for these fun new ferns and if you can’t find them there, you can actually order directly from Monrovia and they will ship them to your nearest garden center.
Either way, you should be excited about these new ferns - I know I am! I should add that Monrovia grows over 68 different varieties of ferns, most of which are hardy for our zone, so if for some reason these new Jurassic varieties don’t work for you, there are lots of others to choose from.
Remember, if you plant a fern, you will have a frond for life.
Sunnyside will be offering a free class about Fall Veggies on Saturday, September 5th, 2020, at 10:00 am. For more information or to signup, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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