Between Two Ferns

I can’t decide between these two ferns, which one I love the best. Luckily, it is not two men, my husband would really hate that. 

  OK. I lied.  I thought that it was a good title.  I am in love with more then two of them.  I can spread myself thin and share the love.


 First on my love list is Japanese Painted Fern or Athyrium niponicum var. pictum.  It was the 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year, chosen by the Perennial  Plant  Association, and you can see why.  Lucious wine red stems and silvery fronds are a match made in heaven.  it is a smaller plant only growing to 1-2′ tall and wide.  Give it some dappled light and a moist spot and it will be your friend for life.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern


Number two on the love list is:



 the “Ghost” fern. This fern is a cross between the Japanese painted fern of above and a Lady Fern (see below).  Somebody did the nasty and it ended up with a gorgeous hunk o’  fern.   Bigger then his daddy, “Ghost” gets up to 3′ tall, but he is just as gorgeous.  Maroon ribs are accented by very pale, silvery grey fronds, that get a bit darker as the season progresses.  He looks lovely backed against something dark.  In my garden, I have planted a ninebark “Coppertina” behind him,  you can just see it in the pictures.


 Third on my love list (although, I should use the disclaimer that these are in no particular order, but they are!) is Hart’s Tongue Fern. 

Hart's Tongue Fern

Hart's Tongue Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium has beautiful, glossy, leathery, strappy leaves that will provide a great contrast against more delicate ferny fronds.  I was turned on to this fern by Frank Kershaw, when I visited his garden as part of my Garden Design course at George Brown College.  As I mentioned in a previous post, he has a waterfall of hakenochloa grass tumbling down from a high corner of his property.  There is also a profusion of hart’s tongue ferns there as well.  Apparently, they are wonderful self seeders (or spread their spore around as the case may be). 

 A smaller plant, the leaves get up to 1 1/2′ long, with a 2′ wide spread. By the way, this fern was a rescue, from a discount table, that is why he is not his usual handsome self.

The above plants, I paid good money for so they get to be first on the list.  I also planted two other ferns in my garden, this year.  These were dug up out of the cedar forest at my dads new house.

He has a ton of Ostrich or Matteuccia struthhiopteris, it is all over the forest. Obviously, it increases well.  This is the native fern that “fiddleheads” are picked from in April.  They are the sterile fronds that have just come up out of the plant.  It has special cinnamon “winter” fronds that are the fertile ones.  They hang on thru the winter, while the other ones die back.  This fern is probably one of the tallest on the ferns, it is 3’4 feet high and could get taller.

He also has some Lady Fern, Anthyrium felix-femina. Like the name says, she is very ladylike, elegant, upright fronds, up to 2′ high, very delicate,  (except when she exhibited tramp like behaviour with Japanese Painted Fern, but I gave you that whole sordid story already.)

This weekend, I was out visiting a few garden centres to see what they had left.  I picked up a hardy maidenhair fern,  Adiantum pedatum. This fern is native to Ontario, and has beautiful black stems  that reach 1-2′ high.


So those are the loves of my secret fern life,(at the moment), come on, give me the dirt, what are yours?

14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    VP said,

    Hmm, I can see that’s tricky even though I’m not really a lover of ferns. However, Hart’s Tongue Fern is a native plant here and I always love seeing it in the wild, particularly when it’s clinging to a waterfall splashed rock!

    Thanks for your visit to my place recently 🙂

    • 2

      I like the darker, broader leaf of the Hart’s Tongue fern, contrasted against the more lacy fronds of other ferns. I fear that I will have to make a trip to England, to see them growing in the wild.

  2. 3

    teza said,

    As a shady gardener, I started out thinking that ferns were a little typical, so steered clear of them, BUT…… a woodland without ferns, akin to sacrilage!
    Alas, favourites?

    I do lust after your Asplenium – that is a gorgeous specimen!

    I am currently under the spell of Athyrium ‘Victoraie’ with her fronds that criss cross along the length of the stems – is sometimes also known as A. ‘Dre’s Daggars’ as well as Athyrium ‘Frizillaie’ – also sold as the ‘Tatting Fern.’ To survive in Teza’s Garden you have to be able to survive in a field of show-stoppers and these two hold their own!

  3. 5

    I like the Ghost! Looks very mysterious. I can’t grow ferns–well maybe until this new house we moved in to last year. I do have some underground springs in my back beds. Prior to this current home, I burned up two painted ferns. So delicate is a very good term for them. If I can find Ghost, I might give it a try.

  4. 6

    I do love Ghost. Ferns always remind me of my childhood, especially the Ostrich ferns. Walking through the woods as a child, you would walk through thickets of them.
    But, I do long for a bit of sun. Every house that we have owned, has been incredibly shady, I think because they have all been historic homes, and the shade trees have always been quite large.

  5. 7

    nancybond said,

    I can definitely see where you might be in love with both of these ferns, but I think the Painted Fern would have my heart. 🙂

  6. 8

    It is gorgeous isn’t it. I think that I need to plant something, maybe a wine colour, beside it.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and making a comment.

  7. 9

    I have everything you’ve listed except the Hart’s Tongue Fern. I’ll have to look for it! My Japanese Ferns are lovely – I really do like them. However the Ghost fern is really quite beautiful. It’s gotten quite tall and full for its first full year in the ground! I really like this post. Thanks for visiting today.

  8. 10

    I really look forward to next year, and seeing how much they will fill out. Thank you for your kind comments.

  9. 11

    Chloe West said,

    Definitely have ghost fern and hart’s tongue on my list!

  10. 12

    Chloe, they are both very yummy ferns! My list keeps getting longer and longer, how about yours?

  11. 13

    Wendy said,

    Well, I have also fallen in love with ferns – and I think with ferns, the more variety, the merrier! I love the hart’s tongue one and it’s definitely on my list of ferns to acquire in the near future. There’s nothing more beautiful that a fern frond unfurling, is there?

  12. 14

    You are so right. I am going to get more, Teza suggested a few that sound fabulous. Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you come back again soon.

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