Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Good Fern, Bad Fern
Yanking out green leafy ferns from the roots to get rid of them is not a task a gardener relishes. So why would we do it? There are good ferns and bad ferns. In Florida there is ONE BAD variety in particular that is readily seen in so many gardens and even sold in garden centers.
But let's have a look at the GOOD ferns growing at Hoe and Shovel first. Some are native and others are just fabulous Florida-Friendly varieties.
A treaured tree fern growing in the back gardens just off the central pathway is the Australian tree fern. Yes, TREE fern. In the best conditions these wondrous beauties can grow 12-15' tall. My single specimen above is only 4-5' tall.
So lovely and stately they become; usually noticed thriving underneath the protective canopy of mature, taller trees as is the case in my back gardens.
Artillery fern, Pilea microphyllia (non-native) is a great one for Florida. The yellow-green hue lights up the shady garden and is useful as a trailing container plant. In this one (above) it contrasts perfectly in texture, form, and color; emphasizing the deep shades of red and forest green of the Philodendron 'Rojo Congo'. I've seen artillery fern utilized as a hardy ground cover as well.
This is a sterile version of artillery. This is not the same as the invasive one that hitch hikes along with so many pots from garden centers.
Edit update: Since the original writing of this article I've come to realize the fern I've profiled here is actually Southern Shield Fern (Thelypteris kunthii). I love that I'm always learning. The more I saw this lovely Florida native pop up on its own around my garden, I dug a little deeper into its attributes. Autumn Fern is often mistaken for Southern Shield. It is also a lovely option, but I don't have any in my garden.
Autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora (non-native) is one of those under-utilized ferns suitable for shady gardens in the coastal states. Although it is well-behaved and non-aggressive I've never had to purchase one. Because over the years it has shown up in many places throughout my garden. In almost every instance it finds an appropriate condition to get its start all on its own so I just let them flourish where they land. In some cases I uproot and relocate them to consolidate for design purposes.
Giant Leather Fern, Acrostichum danaeifolium (Florida native), is a new one to me this past spring. Placing it in a cobalt blue glazed container between the two black adirondacks in the circle garden it has grown quite well in its partially sunny (shade in the morning/filtered sun in afternoon) home. Just for fun there are some more planted in the ground (that can't be seen in this photo)
behind the chairs.
They'll freeze back in extreme frost but come back quickly with the earth warms up.
These giants are often used along the edges of waterways even in brackish waters. My hope is for them to thrive as a perennial in the unsoggy but moist conditions I've offered. I'm in love with their giant status that makes them a stand out.
In a make believe world where I might be forced to choose JUST ONE fern for the shady and partially shady parts of my garden it would unquestionably be the quintessential evergreen Holly fern, Cyrtomium falcatum. This one works like a horse in every season. Blend several of them at a time with gingers, perennials, native oakleaf hydrangea, grasses, bromeliads, even coleus and caladiums. You name it.
Holly fern is a champion of the winter garden charging through the cold unscathed and in the summer heat and drought it shows no signs of despair. A slow grower with its final destination arriving at a healthy 2-3 feet high and at least that wide. I dig up an entire plant in spring, cut it in half with a sharp shovel, put one back where I dug it up and plant the other half in a choice spot to spread the love gradually around the garden.
It is not at all fragile or dainty in appearance. Instead it is robust with its dark, glossy, holly-like leaves these foundational plants add lushness to the understory of the shade garden. Did I mention they are my favorite fern specimen for ground cover providing low maintenance, long lasting, reliable foliage in my garden! Just thought I'd mention that Holly fern is my all-time recommendable Florida-Friendly fern of choice. :=)
And oh, the lovely and mystical Resurrection Fern, Polypodium polypodioides. This is the native epiphyte that attaches itself to trunks of trees and only springs to life after a good rain shower.
Finally this week the tiny fronds have unfurled from their dry, curled-up, lifeless appearance with much needed rain adequately falling. Zero care is required for this Florida native. And I do adore the woodsy, naturalistic feel they lend to the garden.
Giant Sword Fern (Nephrolepsis biserrata) also commonly called Macho Fern IS a Florida native. Macho fern makes a striking contribution to container plants and is also recommended for use as a ground cover. It will spread fairly rapidly but is not considered invasive. I've no need for a fern to cover ground so I'm reining in the spread of it in containers. But if you want an easy care understory that fills in quickly with an exotic feel Macho fern is a good choice.
Macho fern is not to be confused with the non-native imposter of the smaller variety, Tuberous sword fern(Nephrolepis cordifolia) or Asian sword fern (Nephrolepis multiflora). Both are on the Florida Exotic Pest Council's (FLEPPC) Category 1 List of Florida's Most Invasive Species.
BAD FERN! I don't fully remember how this problem began. But I do know it is one that has been neglected for a couple of years and by the end of spring I had procrastinated long enough. The "island" bed on the north side of the driveway was being overrun with Tuberous sword fern(Nephrolepis cordifolia). [BEFORE photo above].
It only took me about 2 hours to pull it out by the roots for removal before it spread around to other parts of the garden. [AFTER photo above].
Do you want to know how to discern whether the sword fern you are growing is the invasive variety?
Here's a document with reliable information: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AG/AG12000.pdf
Which fern growing in your garden is the one you wouldn't want to be without?