Glorious Green: Ferns

A tightly-curled young fern frond.
A tightly-curled young fern frond.

By this stage of winter, the idea of lush green growth is tremendously appealing. It’s easy to dream of densely-planted borders bursting with re-emerging life – new shoots, unfurling leaves, and buds that swell with the promise of flowers soon to come.

Amongst all this imagined greenery, ferns would be an excellent addition. Their finely-cut fronds would contrast well with larger, more solid leaves and would bring their delicate textures and a subtle feel of pattern to the border.

Hairy reverse of young fern-frond.
The young fronds are very hairy on the back. They look almost furry!

For photography, ferns make an excellent subject. There’s lots of pleasing detail, especially in the new foliage. The tightly-wound curls of the young fronds are especially photogenic and the outside surface of the curl (the back of the frond) can be surprisingly hairy and looks soft to touch.

(Saying that has made me realise that I didn’t actually touch them. I could have put out a finger to stroke the back of a curl, but I didn’t. Perhaps I should have. Taking photographs can absorb you so that you forget to interact with plants – or a garden – in ways that you would do, if you were walking around without a camera. So maybe I need to leave my camera in its bag for a while and explore the garden, before I start to take photographs.)

Fern leaves.
Fern leaves can add some texture and pattern to garden borders.

In my real garden (as opposed to the imaginary borders where anything will grow), it is too hot and dry for most ferns. The Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) is reckoned to be able to cope with drier conditions than most, but that is if it’s in the shade. Most of our garden gets a lot of sunshine, but there is one area that is shaded by the house in the afternoon. Now I am wondering if that bit of ground might be suitable for making a bog garden and I’m imagining the other moisture-loving plants that would also be happy there. (Though there are ferns that don’t need such damp soil.)

If I do go ahead with this idea, the beautiful green growth of ferns would be a very satisfying reward. (Meanwhile, my imaginary garden is flourishing!)

Fern fronds with curled tips.
The curly tips of the fronds of this fern look unusual.

14 thoughts on “Glorious Green: Ferns

  1. These are such beautiful photos. I think my love affair with ferns is going to happen in the future. So far I have resisted their allure. I too have a hot and dry garden so I don’t think they would like it. But there is a delicious fern I see in the nuttery every year at Sissinghurst (its name escapes me now) and I find its form utterly beguiling.

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    1. Thank you Ali! I had a couple of ferns in the garden in Scotland but the climate was very different there. (We had rhododendrons too.) I’m planning to create a pond and ferns would look lovely nearby….

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  2. Gorgeous photos Ann. I love the structural qualities of ferns too. I wonder if all gardeners experience the blurring border between the imaginary garden and the reality? I know that others see my garden differently to me.

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    1. Thank you Robyn! I reckon there probably is a blurring of the imaginary vs the reality of our gardens. We spend so much time imagining what they could look like, planning, experimenting etc that a lot must be in our heads. Then again, we can be surprised by the reality sometimes!

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    1. Thanks Syd! 🙂 I think it’s easy to over-look ferns because our eye is caught by brighter colours of flowers or architectural foliage. But ferns can play a big part in the overall look of a garden, especially as part of the texture.

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  3. Wow! I want to get some ferns now! I used to have some lovely ferns in the shaded part of my last garden. They were low maintenance…or no maintenance and beautiful.

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    1. I’m glad you liked them, Indira. Thank you! I would love to have some of that green in the garden right now…just waiting for spring and some new growth!

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  4. Maybe I should photograph my ferns before I try to get rid again. They are taking over and cannot be contained. They are interesting though, the way they curl and are structured. They have been so invasive though.

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    1. Your conditions must be pretty much idea for ferns. I can’t imagine that they could ever take over here. (We have Japanese anemones doing that instead!) I hope you manage to cope with them!

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