I think ferns are one of the loveliest parts of a garden. I have a whole bed of them as well as some stuck in here and there to give that airy, lacy effect they’re so famous for. I love the ones that stay green all winter so I can enjoy them but I also appreciate the ones who go dormant and lose all their leaves and just wait for spring to come forth again as they all do with their new growth. I’ve tried to capture the spirit of each plant here both for my own records but also to share with others. I hope you enjoy this fern tour.

The first fern on this tour is an Alaska Fern, or Polystichum setiferum. It grows about 2-3 feet around and stays green all winter. I have a couple of these because I like them so much. Next to it is an Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, which comes on with new growth that is bronze in color tho it’s not in autumn that it does this so I’m uncertain about why it was named this. It’ll all stay evergreen and gets about 2-3 feet big. Next is a Japanese Tassel fern, another Polystichum, polyblepharum. Smaller than the others but still evergreen.

Here’s a ratty looking specimen of our native Sword fern, Polystichum munitum. It’s in winter since I couldn’t find another picture of it in spring or summer. It will get 5-6 feet tall and is a staple of NW gardens and hillsides. Beside it is a Long Eared Holly fern or Polystichum neoloblatum. Not too big a grower but evergreen. Then another Holly fern, this time a Cyrtomium falcatum. It looks a little more like Holly but both have scratchy scales on them so both are aptly named.

I think this is a native Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina, but I’m not sure. We transplanted it from a part of the garden where it had naturalized. It didn’t do  so well here so I took it out but still wanted to show it off as it’s really something. We still have some of them coming up here and there all over the garden. They look so sweet when they’re young and small but they do get huge and I don’t have many places I can accommodate them so I pull most of them and let a few survive for awhile. They’re deciduous so disappear completely in the fall.

Here’s a Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, another NW native whose roots have a licorice like flavor and were used for that by the Native People. It’s another evergreen. Next is one of the 2 plants in the garden I lost the sticker from. It’s an unknown fern but may be a male fern, Athyrium filix mas, or may not be. I dunno really but it’s pretty and stays evergreen all year so it’s nice to have where it is. Then there’s a Dragon Tail fern, Asplenium ebenoides, that is supposed to look like a dragons tail. I have a hard time telling it from the Deer fern but they’re not related apparently so I don’t know why. Ferns are like that tho. They often look similar.

Here’s another Alaska fern, or soft shield fern, Polystichum setiferum, here, as I said, because I like it so much. And next to it is a variety of it called “diversilobum” for the way it grows into something of a stalk as it gets bigger. It hasn’t done that yet for me. This next one will get to be about 5-6 feet tall which is why it’s tucked back in the corner of the yard. It also loses its leaves so I have to put in a stake so I don’t forget it. It’s a Purple Stemmed Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis var. regalis Purpurascens”,  and has purple stems on it’s lovely stalks and interesting leaves. I can’t wait for this one to get big!

This an Auriculate Lady Fern, Athyrium otophorum,  and is another deciduous one. It’s one of the parents to the Ghost fern you see later on in this pictorial. Beside it is a clump of what will become a large fern 5-6 feet tall.  The Giant Chain Fern, Woodwardia fimbriata, native to the Sierras of California and parts of Oregon. I got these in tubes just a year or so ago and they’ve really grown a lot in that short time but still have a long way to go. They’ll get there in time.

The last row starts with a Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium nipponicum “Pictum”, another unusual deciduous fern from Japan that has won numerous awards of merit for its unique coloring. It’s the other parent of the Ghost fern next in line. The Ghost fern, Athyrium x Ghost,  is a cross between the Auriculate Lady Fern and the Japanese Painted Fern and has characteristics of both. It seems to get bigger sooner than either of its parents and has wonderful under-lighting qualities to it. Last is the Deer fern, Blechnum spicant, another NW native. It puts up sterile fronds in the top of the plant in spring and keeps the basal leaves all year round.

So that’s the tour. I didn’t realize I have quite so many of these things. I know there are still a couple more I missed but you got the majority of them. As you can see they do give a certain quality of grace to the garden and harmonize well with their surroundings and the plants with them. They go well with all sort of things especially my faves, the Ercicaceae. They make the garden more interesting and give it a certain quality of light and delicacy that nothing else quite does. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour and come back for more when you can.

in ferny delight,



2 responses to this post.

  1. I can paint what you sai. And I’m not an artist. You are great !!!! 🙂 !



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