What image does the word fern install in your mind when you hear it.  Cool green, moist forested areas, just type ‘fernery’ into google images and see if you don’t drool. Even if you are not the biggest fern fan in the world, just looking at those lush images will make you appreciate them at least.  According to Wikipedia, a fernery “is a specialized garden for the cultivation and display of ferns.  Now I don’t have a fernery, at least not yet, but I have added to my fern “collection” recently.             

A month ago I purchased the Tatting fern or Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’.     Sorry, it was a windy day!      


Tatting fern is a very appropriate name for this fern, the edges look just like some of the linens that Ian’s grandmother gave us.  That is definitely a lost art.             

I also felt compelled to increase the number of my ‘Ghost’ ferns, Athyrium ‘Ghost’ . I had two in the garden, they are planted by my Coppertina ninebark. I love how the dark stem of this ghostly fern picks up the dark foliage of the ninebark, while the soft grey of the fronds is an amazing contrast.            


Last summer, I purchased another Asplenium scolopendrium, from Humber Nurseries. It was a purchase with a gift, as another fern had self seeded into the pot at some time, and the two of them had grown happily together.             

Asplenium with 'Bonus' fern

I think that the stowaway might be Dryopteris filix-mas ‘Linearis’, but please let me know if you feel differently.             

I also received as a gift a couple of Japanese painted ferns. They must be the species, as my only other Athyrium niponicum is supposed to be ‘Regal Red’, and looking at them planted side by side, you can definitely see the difference.  I love this soft apple green so much I went out and purchased another.             


Here is Athyrium pedatum ‘Pictum’.            

Japanese Painted Fern

And ‘Regal Red’, see the difference in colour?             

Other ferns?             

I have ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris that I dug up in my fathers woods, and also this fern.             

Anyone know the name of this one?           

Let us not forget the hardy maidenhair fern.  I love maidenhairs, I plant them every year on my terrace in Toronto. They love the shady, protected site and are lovely until the frosts come.  But they are not hardy in the garden, but Adiantum pedatum is.             


Wiry black stems with a light green frond. Mine is still quite short as it is newly planted, but I am hoping next year I will have some taller stems growing.             

I don’t think that this is a large enough number to qualify as a fernery, and I do not have them planted all together, but once again, a collection seems to be starting in my garden, and I am not unhappy about it.  

42 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Paul said,

    I have two maidenhair ferns, but we’re not good friends. Either they take a lot of work (even though I have them in the perfect position and look after them like they’re my children), or they are just hard to grow. Other ferns, no problem. They are almost weeds here.

    I would have thought ferns were more tropical than Canada was able to offer so you have done well.

    • 2

      Paul, there are ‘tropical’ ferns, that are just house plants here, but we have a lot of native ones in our forests as well.
      My tropical maidenhairs have always been difficult to grow, finally, I have a spot they love, my very shady, sheltered terrace in Toronto, I plant them in containers every summer.

  2. 3

    Marguerite said,

    I love your ferns. The maidenhair is definitely my favourite by far. Such a classy looking plant! Unfortunately being on a sunny lot I lack ferns these days but in the past have loved the soft Shield Ferns, sword ferns, and another favourite, the red stemmed lady fern.

  3. 5

    Ria said,

    Wow, they look stunning! I have a bank at the bottom of the garden, and the ferns love it there – it’s like a mini forestry. I really must tidy it up, it hasn’t been weeded all year! eep!

  4. 7

    Edith Hope said,

    Dear est D, I do so agree that Ferns are lovely and one can never have too many [well, perhaps one can but it takes a long time to get to that point] since they are so versatile and grow in a wide variety of conditions, often where other plants struggle. Your collection is progressing very well indeed and I should not bother that they are spread throughout the garden since, in my mind, that is how they look best.

  5. 9

    PatioPatch said,

    Dear Deborah – ferns make me drool. It’s fortunate because as a shade gardener, I have to like them. Had not realised the Tatting fern was quite so splendid – the name put me off before. Thanks for showing your Green Theatre fernery – Ghost is going to be a must.
    Laura x

  6. 11

    We’re so fortunate to have many fern species growing wild here, and although not a fernery, in the winter months they are one of the most predominant growing plants in the understory. I love the foliage of your Ghost fern, just beautiful. I did find a wild maidenhair fern here last winter, I’m just crossing my fingers it returns when the winter rains start up again.

  7. 13

    Barbara said,

    Your ferns all look so healthy – mine are turning brown and looking tatty rather than tatted heading into fall. Spring is when they are most glorious, unfurling their fronds. I agree with Edith that spread around they are more attractive than in a big group.

  8. 15

    chen said,

    Fernery, such a tasteful term. I must dedicate an area to a ‘fernery’ next spring. These ferns looks so elegant and refreshing in your Green Theatre (even though it is October already).

  9. 17

    Amy said,

    All of your ferns are very pretty and such a variety of great colors. I have two foxtail ferns and come to find out they are not ferns at all .. they belong to the lily family. Wonder why they named it a fern..hmmm. I guess to confuse us all.

  10. 19

    Patty said,

    A friend of mine has a tatting fern. She also has a cross-stitch fern. Never heard of either before then, but they are both quite striking. My garden holds many ostrich ferns, some christmas ferns, a few marginal ferns, one maidenhair fern and new this summer an asplenium fern.

  11. 21

    teza said,

    Coming from ‘he’ who said there was more to a shaded garden than ferns, I too have developed an ever growing passion for them! Might I suggest a few more for your consideration:
    Athyrium ‘Dre’s Daggars’ sometimes sold as Athyrium ‘Victoriae]
    Athyrium ‘Ursula’s Red’
    Cheilanthes lanosa
    I am seriously considering revamping part of the Shaded Walk to be dedicated to fern, Trillium and Epimedium, with a slight spattering of Cypripedium!
    Great post as usual and thanks for giving this delightful shade garden stalwart more exposure!

  12. 23

    Grace said,

    I love ferns. Can we ever have too many? You’ve got some beautiful photos, Deborah.

  13. 25

    debsgarden said,

    I think your great collection would qualify as a fernery! I love ferns also, but finding ones that adapt well to my climate and conditions has been a challenge. Autumn fern does well, and I am hopeful of holly fern, which has survived a couple summers, so far. Then there is an unnamed native, which grows where it wants and flourishes without care. I am going to try to transplant it into my woodland garden so I can show it off.

  14. 27

    I do like ferns. Sadly, as they are not edible, and my space is limited, I will have to rely on the gardens of others to view them.

    Maybe you will end being referred to by passing schoolchildren as “the fern lady”!

    • 28

      Oh but IG, the ostrich fern is edible. I do not know if fiddleheads are popular on your side of the pond, but google it. They taste a bit like asparagus.
      Fern lady is better than crazy garden lady, lol, or maybe not.

  15. 29

    catmint said,

    I think this is enough for a fernery – I am also a fern fan, but unfortunately cannot help you with names.

  16. 31

    barbarapc said,

    Thank goodness for all this rain – the ferns have really bounced back. Found that the Tatting Fern was short-lived for me – about 3 years or so. It’s one I’d like to replace one of these days. If your maidenhair is happy, you should have a good clump in about 4 years or so. Found that Loblaws in the spring has been a good place to find a fern or two and they’ve all been extremely hardy. See that we both started out our Toronto gardens in the Beach. Barbarapc

  17. 33

    Diane Mumm said,

    I have a few of the ferns you have listed.. I love ferns, and have in the last few years added more. I love the greenery and they are winter hardy here in Iowa.
    My favorite is Japanese Painted Fern, I do have the red regal too, the ghost fern, branford rambler, and five finger ferns. All have their purpose in my landscape.

  18. 35

    Deborah, your ferns are fabulous!! They are so happy and healthy and an impressive collection. I only have ostrich ferns and they look awful, having been trampled by kids & dogs all summer.

    An interesting aside, I just saw your post on MsS blog re September and the start of the year, and did a little research. On the hebrew calendar (lunar), the start of the year falls around the start of the month, this year was Sept 8th. Coincidence? I think not….:)

  19. 37

    Wendy said,

    Great collection!

    I love ferns. I’m not sure I have a fernery either, but enough to enjoy them unfurling each spring, beautiful next to the hostas. I do want more though!

  20. 39

    Wendy said,

    It might be fun to plant some for eating too – fiddlehead ferns. I think those are ostrich ferns that you can eat, right?

    • 40

      My dad has a huge collection of ostrich ferns, but I have never been up north at the right time to harvest them. They grow so fast, I think you almost have to check them daily.

  21. 41

    Laurrie said,

    I do think you have a fernery, despite your protests that you don’t have enough to qualify. I have not tried any ferns, as my shade is limited to the shadow of the house. But as my trees grow, I’ll want to try some (ok, all) of the ones you highlight so beautifully here.
    PS, I went back and caught up with your post while I was away that gave your bio and history… what a treat! Thanks for the delightful life story… I feel I know you so much better now!

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: