A while back, in another one of my blogs, I wrote a post entitled: “Pterodomania: Fern Fever” in which I discussed the fern craze that had occurred in Victorian England. You can see this post here: http://queenofsienna.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/pteridomania-fern-fever/
Ferns had become extremely popular during that period of time and city folk were venturing forth into the countryside to dig up and bring ferns home with them. That post, however, mainly concerned the silver and silverplated fern dishes, planters and other receptacles used at the time by fern collectors.
Now, however, I take note of the variety of ferns growing in my own yard. They grow all around the foundation of the house, along the stone walls, in some of the planting beds and out in the more or less “wild” area out by the barn. Although I can tell there are different varieties, exactly how many, I have no idea. I do know that I love their lush shades of green, different textures and growing habits. They provide a vibrancy to the summer garden even when the blooms of the flowers are fading. They sway gracefully in the slightest breeze and bring a pleasing movement to the garden.
According to “Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening”: “Ferns are perennial, flowerless plants of more than 6000 species, divided into several families, which are widely distributed throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the world. Long before the Age of Man, gigantic ancestors of our ferns formed mighty forests which were in their turn submerged, and slowly became vast beds of coal, while higher plant life gradually evolved above them. Today the extinct species of ferns far outnumber the living.”
To me, fern identification is daunting. As stated in the quote above, there are more than 6000 species. If you go to the home page on the American Fern Society website, ” http://amerfernsoc.org/ “, you will see a slide show of different types of ferns, shown in alphabetical order by their Latin names. I am humbled every time I look at it.
So, I am hesitant to identify with any certainty the ferns in my yard. For example, the fern shown below might possibly be a “Lady Fern” also known by its Latin name, “Athyrium”. But there are approximately 180 species of Athyrium around the world…so who knows?
And this fern, tall and erect growing near a stone wall, could be a “Male Fern” or “Dryopteris” variety of 200 different species.
I actually bought and planted the fern shown below. This was tagged “Ghost Lady” and I bought it because I like the name as well as the very pale green color with a whitish hue. I have since learned that this is a variety of the Japanese painted fern. This “Ghost Lady” is holding its own and standing up to its huge and pushy neighbor the Maindenhair fern.
Next is a Japanese painted fern that was on this property when I arrived. It was doing much better when it had some shade that was provided by the old crabapple tree which was brought down by the freak Halloween snow storm a few years ago.
The bright green fern in the center and to the right of the photo below most likely is a variety of Polypodium (which only has about 75 species). “Magic and Medicine of Plants” states that “From Greco-Roman antiquity physicians prescribed preparations derived from this lovely evergreen fern as a mild laxative, purgative, and remedy for coughs and chest complaints….Herbalists also recommended preparations of the dried and powdered rhizome for internal use to expel tapeworms and for external use as a limiment.” Quite a few other ferns species are known for their medicinal qualities as well.
There are over 200 varieties of Maindenhair (Adiantum) fern, and I am fortunate enough to have one. This fern is huge…easily four feet wide or more. It’s in the same bed as my huge “Blue Angel” hosta. The delicate almost chartreuse shade of this Maidenhair is offset beautifully by the enormous corrugated blue green leaves of the hosta.
The hay-scented ferns have taken over the area by the barn and it’s just fine with me.
And these sweet little ferns that are growing in a shady spot in an amongst the stone steps on the side of the house are a mystery to me.
Of one thing I am certain, I will never be more than a novice when it comes to ferns but I certainly enjoy their presence in my yard.