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Fern favourites; Both deciduous and evergreen, the fern will bring woodland charm to your shady spots.

ADOZEN years ago, I moved from the hustle of Portobello Road in Notting Hill, where I had a studio around the corner from Hugh Grant's famous blue door, to somewhere completely different, the countryside of Wicklow.

The daily grind changed from dealing with hundreds of people bumping into each other in narrow streets and the shouts of barrow boys selling their vegetables and cheap fashion, to walks with the dogs in dingly dells, from noise to silence, from concrete to green.

Dicksonia (Soft Much of that green was provided by the carpet of growth underneath deciduous woodlands plantations of ferns thriving in these misty isles' perfect conditions.

I've always loved ferns and use them in my garden, from mini forests of the outdoor monster Dicksonia antarctica to different varieties under my birch trees in the front garden.

Nothing evokes the forest floor more than a group of ferns. They can be deciduous which gives you the added bonus of the fresh green fronds emerging in spring, or evergreen, which gives a companionable feel over the winter months. They ideally like shade or dappled light and moist humus-rich soil.

(Outside the traditional shady or woodland garden, ferns are perfect to mix in a small border and bring drama to a courtyard. A good container will help show off the individual beauty of some of the species.

Looking after them isn't too hard. Give them the right soil conditions with lots of organic matter and moisture. In deciduous forms you just let the foliage die back and cover the base - this protects them over winter.

Some will need a bit more protection so use horticultural fleece or a little mound of organic matter.

With evergreen ferns, just tidy up the foliage throughout the year.

Be careful when cutting back in spring as it's easy to snip the fiddleheads of new fronds.

Asplenium (Bird's Ferns pair well with other woodland species such as spring bulbs - Anemone nemorosa and crocus spring to mind - and nestling in foxgloves and aquilegias.

Their love of humidity makes them perfect for bottle gardens which are undergoing a big revival. So if you don't have the outdoor spaces, consider growing some tender specimens such as the Maidenhair fern in a bottle indoors.

DICKSONIA ANTARCTICA Soft tree fern MY FAVOURITE. The majestic tree fern has enormous presence with its glorious arching lacy green fronds that contrast so strongly with its stout fibrous trunk.

It's hardy in temperate climates, but may need some protection when young or newly planted, so choose a slightly sheltered site to be safe.

nid's nest fern) Stuff straw into the crown to protect fronds from frost.

MATTEUCCIA STRUTHIOPTERIS Shuttlecock fern CLOTHED in the brightest of bright green the emerging spring fronds are a delight to behold. Growth starts off closed tight and upright, then gently opens up in the shape of a shuttlecock. It holds this form better than many other ferns and looks so good in groups.

WOODWARDIA UNIGEMMATA Jewelled chain fern A PARTICULARLY wonderful specimen from east Asia. Superb arching fronds that can reach up to two metres in length emerge at first reddish in colour, turning to green in maturity.

It likes a damp soil in the shade and I would recommend covering the crown with some mulch in winter if you are in colder northern regions.

POLYSTICHUM SETIFERUM Soft shield fern AN EVERGREEN for deep shade although it also likes partial shade and will tolerate dry, but not bone dry, soil. Tight lacy fronds extend from the centre and reach up to 4ft at maturity.

ATHRYIUM NIPPONICUM PICTUM Japanese painted fern THIS delicate deciduous fern is known as the painted lady and brings a splash of jewel-like brightness to a shady garden.

Growing 8-12ins high it will slowly spread to create a carpet. The leaves have metallic green and purple hues, darker towards the mid rib.

'Silver falls' is even more precious with its silver white leaves.

ASPLENIUM NIDUS Bird's nest fern ONE of the easiest ferns for indoors. Bright green straps of evergreen foliage unfold from a central 'nest'. Will do well in north-facing rooms.

Spray with fine mist to maintain humidity in centrally heated rooms or locate in steamy bathrooms or kitchens.

OSMUNDA REGALIS Royal fern A REGAL fern deserving of the name 'Royal fern'. Beautiful with arching stems from the base, it's robust, happy in dappled shade and likes acid soil. It can grow to 5ft and needs lots of moisture.

DRYOPTERIS ERYTHROSORA Autumn fern THIS is known as the autumn fern - due to its beautiful pink and red tints as it unfurls its foliage in spring. These then mature to green.

It's a semi-evergreen so will retain much of its foliage through winter. This fern is happiest in moist shade.


Athryium nipponicum pictum (Japanese painted fern)

Asplenium nidus (Bird's nest fern)

Dicksonia antarctica (Soft tree fern)

Matteuccia struthiopteris (Shuttlecock fern)

Polystichum setiferum (Soft shield fern)

Osmunda regalis (Royal fern)

Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn fern)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 18, 2018
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