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GARDENING : Be a fern fancier in shady situations.

FERNS have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but nothing could be further from the truth.

They're tough plants which, once established, need little looking after.

All ferns grow best in shade, otherwise the fronds become scorched. Most thrive in a rich, moist but well-draining neutral to alkaline soil.

One exception is the starchly upright royal fern, Osmunda regalis - a real acid-lover which needs lots of moisture at the roots. Another fern for boggy ground is the Shuttlecock, Matteuccia struthiopteris, which has graceful arching fronds.

At the other extreme, you can grow the hart's tongue fern, Asplenium scolopendrium, in a dry shady border, rockery or wall crevice. In the wild you'll find its leathery, strap-like leaves sprouting from between the cracks in limestone pavements, which shows that ferns will grow in all kinds of hostile places.

Ferns look best grown in groups to create a stunning display, even though they don't have flowers, by mixing plants with different leaf shape, size, texture and colour.

Become a proper fern fancier and you'll never struggle for ideas about what to grow in that dark, dingy corner.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Wild, Adrienne
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 25, 2000
Words:185
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