Ferns In Your Garden

Ferns can be freely used to great advantage in association with a great variety of shrubs and beneath trees. If planted thickly ferns make a nice ground cover and, because of thier shallow rooting, do not take away needed moisture from the shrubs or trees. For this type of site even the mor e invasive ferns may be used for a rapid growing, dense groung cover. The form and texture of ferns tend to minimize the skinny legginess of many shrubs, and pleasing effects may be achieved by choosing the leaf shapes of ferns for compliment and contrast to the growth habits of your shrubs. The cannopy of heavy-leaved rhodedendrons and laurel are remarkebly lightened by an underplanting of N. Maidenhair or Hayscented Ferns.

For the devotee there is such an abundance of varied forms amoung the fern speicies that a whole garden may be given soely to thier growth. In a small garden an amazing number of fern species can be grown. But the greedey Osmundas and the unladylike Lady, Sensitive and Hayscented Ferns have no place in the small garden, but even these may be restrained with a barrier of rockwork or edging sunk into the ground.

Generally, a fern garden should include some sloping ground, some dense shade, some light shade, and an open, partly sunny location. All of these areas, however, must be eighther naturally moist or located so as to faciliate hand watering. An open, moisture retaining soil is so important to all ferns that it is worth a person's while to provide the whole area with a good basic soil before small pockets of of depleted areas develop. A heavy clay soil or a dry sandy soil must have a heavy incorporation of humus added. This can be done by making leaf mold or by purchasing peat.

No single formula for a garden planting can be given. The inclusion of some large rocks and an unevenness of soil levels helps to give the site a natural look. Shade provided by deep-rooted trees or shrubs that will not rob all of the moisture from the ground is ideal. The shade on the north side of a building or along a wall provides a good site, if a somewhat unnatural one. Shade provided by a vine covered arbor is good.

To meet the special needs of various ferns the best plan is to study a few sites where ferns are flourishing and try to reproduce those conditions in your garden. A little humus and or decaying vegetation in a rock crevice often is all that is needed.


All ferns listed are grown from spore which in some instances requires several years of nurturing. Many are Five to ten year olds... and are Landscape quality; and size.

Your ferns should be planted in rich woodland type soil - compost, peat, leaf mold - well drained crumbly humus. As the plants become established, frequent topdressing with any organic materials such as; leaf mold, sifted peat moss and wood ash at a 1/4 lb. per sq. yd. You can use, dried sheep manure, or other organic fertilizer, to improve both color and size of fronds. And never plant any fern with its old planting mark below the soil.

Aside from an annual top dressing of leaves, and peat, and some wood ash, we do not feed the plants in our garden in the belief that a well prepared site should provide adequate nutrition for a fern to prosper as it would in its natural habitat. The old fronds may be left on to nourish the fern or removed to "tidy up"! In either case they should be left on the plant over the winter for cold protection.

We do feed the nursery stock which in flats and pots tends to deplete available nourishment. But you should never apply inorganic fertilizers, in any form to your garden plants. These react quickly on the plants, which grow luxuriantly for a time but may the turn brown and die. A one time recommendation to help them get established, is for an application of any evenly balanced fertilizer with trace elements at 1/2 the manufacturer's recommended strength just before new growth starts (for us this is approximately late March). A hardened, unforced plant is better prepared for the transition to your garden.

Ferns prefer to be planted in filtered shade (not dank hollows) and in general tend to like acid soil as well, though many will (the Interupted) tolerate most any soil. Conifer needles and peat make excellent additives to increase acidity. Depending on your climate many ferns will tolerate morning and late afternoon sun, but prefer dappled shade and most need protection from intense mid-day sunshine, though if the ground is wet enough most ferns will tolerate direct sunlight (swampy type soil).

Ferns are not particularly bothered by pests. Slugs will occasionally chain saw tender new growth so bait should be out and about before they start their spring browsing, often the Gypsy Moth can be a bother also. Ferns are not tolerant of many pesticides and should be protected from general spraying. Oil based sprays are particularly hard on foliage. Most bothersome are the larva stage of insect. See fernpests.

Newly planted ferns should be watered regularly and deeply until they are well established. We prefer not to water when the sun is on the foliage. However, do not let your ferns dry completely out at any time of day, on a hot day everything needs water. As ferns mature they become more drought tolerant. They also should be winter hardy if you match appropriate plants for your USDA zone. However, if an arctic express is predicted a light mulch (snow is great) can add protection. Good growing!!!
WE accually have no babies, one or two year olds for sale (save the Royals and Ostrich which are sold in June and July). What we have for sale are drought tolerate and mountain winter hardy specimens in the three year old and up size.