Ferns for the garden

The rain seems relentless and is making it very difficult to work in the garden, but I have to admit my plants have never looked as good and lush as they do now. Over the last couple of months I’ve been planting ferns in my wildlife/woodland garden and in a newly dug area too where I’ve recently planted various shrubs, conifers and perennials. It’s amazing how much growth they’ve all made! Ferns are versatile plants with beautiful architectural evergreen or deciduous foliage that can suit most places around the garden including containers, especially terracotta pots. They don’t all need to grow in damp shady places; some will quite happily grow in dry soils and sunny sites. In my wildlife garden I built a raised bed with a retainer wall, the bottom layers are pieces of concrete that were the foundation of a path that I’d dug up last year and a broken concrete washing line post. The two top layers are pieces of broken slabs overlapping each other. I divided a nice chunky Polypodium vulgare into three pieces and pushed them in between the rocks with some moss and compost; they’re filling out nicely and in time should spread about. It’s an evergreen, low growing creeping fern that has dark green fronds and will grow in dry shade making it ideal for planting in walls, embankments and logs. In and around the raised bed I’ve planted a mix of ferns with contrasting heights, foliage patterns and colour, including Polystichum polyblepharum an evergreen that likes well-drained soil, partial shade and will grow to about 2 feet, and Blechnum spicant another evergreen fern for damp or dry shade, its rich dark green comb like fronds make it very attractive and distinctive. In my newly dug area I’ve planted some ferns below a climbing hydrangea; these include Polystichum tsus simense and Dryopteris erythrosa ‘Prolifica’. The first is a beautiful evergreen fern with eye catching black stems that contrast vividly with the green foliage. A real stunner! The latter is a Dwarf Rosy Buckler Fern, with bright coppery juvenile fronds that will mature to a dark glossy green and grows to about 18 inches. Next year I shall plant a couple of clematis there to grow up the hydrangea to add some extra colour for the summer.