Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

May 2011

Athyrium niponicum 'Burgundy Lace', Japanese painted fern

As a tribute to my mother and Mother’s Day, today’s blog post is about ferns. It’s not that ferns were a favorite flower of my mother. In fact, she grew only a few flowers, and they had to be tough and easy to care for like bearded iris, peony, self-seeding petunias, and zinnias, from which she saved seed each year.

No, the topic of ferns is appropriate because that was my mother’s name. (You might say that I was destined to become a horticulturist with a mother by that name. But none of my five siblings went into plant-related careers, although they all are gardeners to some degree.) In many ways, ferns remind me of Mom. They’re unassuming and hard-working, providing beauty and backup support for other stars in the shade garden. They may look delicate, but they survive or even thrive in tough conditions.

One of my favorite ferns is Japanese painted fern, pictured above. With its silver and burgundy tinged fronds, it’s showier than many other ferns. It makes a lovely low-growing groundcover in moist shade. I’m quite sure that Mom never wore any burgundy lace, but she always brought out Grandma Schrock’s hand-crocheted lace tablecloth when we entertained.

Another favorite of mine is cinnamon fern with its reddish brown spore-bearing fronds. Mom wasn’t a heavy user of spices (Dad didn’t like his food spicy.), but cinnamon was a staple in the pantry. Cinnamon toast was a great way to start the day.

Ostrich fern, whose fiddleheads unfurl this time of year in woodland gardens, is featured in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden. If you’re in Des Moines, stop by the garden on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. to see them–and everything else that is in bloom. The garden officially opens for the season on May 6, 2011, which is National Public Gardens Day. If you can’t make it to Des Moines, visit a public garden near you.

Mom is no longer with us, but her legacy lives on in her six children, 15 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren.

Osmunda cinnamomea, Cinnamon fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris, ostrich fern

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