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Caring for ferns. Ferns can be used to create a cooling, restful section of landscape, often where it is difficult to grow a range of general plants.
Nurseries are offering an increasing number of ferns, and regular visits show that the unusual or rare ones are more often available seasonally.
Like general plant lines, species are available at differing times of the year, with trunked tree-ferns usually being available in autumn and winter. Planting of these in mid-summer can result in burning of the foliage unless reasonable protection is given.
Where shelter from direct sun is not provided by trees, shade cloth may be used. This material is available in various degrees of light filtration, and for general use the 70% shade cloth is satisfactory.
It is also useful as a windbreak where more delicate ferns are growing.
In designing a fernery, the specific requirements for the majority of species should be taken into account.
While some will tolerate sun and an open moist site. the general rule is to provide a shaded, moist but well-drained site with protection from cold and hot winds. it is anadvantage to include either poles ot stout beams in your construction. These may support suspended larger ferns or baskets, whose weight is considerable when wet.
Permanent still water, fed from a concealed source, or moving water recycled by a small pump, can assist in maintaining humidity levels in a partly enclosed area.
A narrow deep gully which may only
be moist, not necessarily holding permanent water, can bisect the planting. Ferns which grow spontaneously. along with mosses, on the sides of such drain areas provide an unplanned aspect difficult to achieve with planting.
On these areas, species of Blechnum will carpet sections with the suckering habit. Blechnum fluviatile is small and hardy, and only grows to around 15 cm high, spreading rapidly where conditions are suitable.
Many of this genus have bronze, red or pink new growth, and even the shape or spacing of the pinnules of the foliage form interesting traceries in semi-shade sites.
Blechnum nudum can be used where a medium trunk height is required, as it will
grow to about one metre on a dark, fibrous trunk. It is commonly known as the "fish-bone water fern", an indication of the pattern of its fronds.
Blechnum penna-marina is ephemeral, that is, it dies down in winter, and returns vigorously in late spring.
There is room for such a seasonal effect at ground -level, and this species will increase, by suckering, the area of its growth every time it renews itself.
The scrambling intricacy of the "coral fern", Gleichenia microphylla, can be harnessed to grow up on a support of wire, and then allowed to tumble down on itself.
Few plants have the animal-like quality afforded by Davallia pyxidata.The new rhizomes are covered in brown fur, and when one sees these creeping over the edge of a basket or on the trunk of another plant, recognition of the common name 'hare's foot' is obvious.