Ancient and enchanting, ferns thrive in shady spots where little else grows. The seemingly fragile fern harks back to the time of the dinosaurs, surviving and thriving over the millennia in cool green forests and enchanted glens. Available in a range of textures, ferns lend an air of grace and tranquility to woodland gardens or breathtaking lushness to tropical gardens. Bamboo Pipeline has rounded up a few of our favorites.
Tree Ferns – Popular for their lush tropical look, tree ferns add a large and somewhat primordial presence to the garden. A crown of feathery green fronds atop a hairy brown trunk will transport you back to a land before time. Tree ferns make a refreshing and exotic retreat when planted in a shady nook or group them into an inviting fern dell. Just make sure to give them plenty of room overhead. Dicksonia antarctica (Tasmanian Tree Fern) is slow growing to 15 feet tall. Fronds are dark green. Sphaeropteris cooperi (Australian Tree Fern)(Cyathea c.) is fast growing to 20 feet tall. Fronds are light green and tolerate full sun along the coast.
Cyrtomium falcatum – The handsome evergreen foliage of the Holly Fern adds wonderful texture to a woodland garden or as an accent plant in shady borders. The glossy green leaflets on slender arching stems add a lively contrast in partial to full shade and stand up well against coastal breezes and salty air. Remove old fronds in the spring for a tidy appearance. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
Blechnum gibbum 'Silver Lady' – If you like the look of tree ferns but on a smaller scale, Silver Lady Fern is a dwarf tree fern with a more ladylike stature. Lush green fronds to 3 feet long rise atop a short trunk, to a total height of 6 feet. Simply stunning in the garden or decorative pot, its appearance is similar to a small palm tree.
Adiantum raddianum 'Fragrans' – Dainty green leaflets on black stems dance impishly in subtle breezes. Airy and romantic, the lacy pale green leaves of the Delta Maidenhair Fern are lovely in dappled sunlight. Foliage is quickly refreshed with new growth by cutting back old stems. This diminutive fern grows to 18? tall. Plant in shade with regular water. Southern Maidenhair fern (A.capillus-veneris) is similar in appearance and often confused with A. raddianum.
Sword Ferns – Stiff upright fronds give the Sword Fern its distinctive look. Robust and easy to grow, these versatile, medium to large sized ferns will grow in deep to light shade in a wide range of soil conditions. Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern does best in moist, cool climates and is virtually maintenance-free once established. Nephrolepis cordifolia (Southern Sword Fern) forms tufts of finely-toothed fronds. Excellent in shaded borders, this fern grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Nephrolepis exaltata (Common Sword Fern) is similar to N. cordifolia but grows larger and has broader fronds.
Microlepia strigosa – The delicate lacy appearance of the Lace Fern contradict the sturdy nature of this plant. This hardy garden fern has leaf blades that start light green and darken to medium green with age. Tolerant of infrequent irrigation, use in a dry shade garden or as a vigorous filler between shrubs. Arching fronds grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Becomes deciduous in cooler climates.
Asplenium bulbiferum – Feel at home with the peaceful beauty of the Mother Fern. Graceful arching fronds are the freshest green you can imagine. The glossy finely-cut foliage harbor tiny plantlets that are gently dropped to the ground to start growing into new plants. Prefers moist soil. Grows to 4 feet tall and wide.
Woodwardia fimbriata – California's largest native fern, the long apple-green fronds of Giant Chain Fern are reminiscent of ancient forests. Grown wild or in gardens, this large scale fern will reach heights from 4 feet up to 9 feet the closer it gets to its native coastal fog belt. Partial to heavy shade, it will tolerate more sun along the coast. Drought tolerant once established.