March plant of the month – Evergreen Ferns

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Plant of the month

Evergreen Ferns

Walking the Norfolk byways at this time of the year, the hedge-bases are green with the herringbone fronds of common polypody fern. I’m an unashamed devotee of ferns of all kinds, and the polypody reminds me just what a diverse and useful group of the plants they are. While classic fern territory may indeed be damp woodland, I’ve seen polypody growing out of walls and in the middle of sand dunes. Given the chance, it even grows upside-down underneath the selling benches at the nursery.

Many fern species, such as the shield ferns or polystichums, are true evergreens. Others, like the polypody, are wintergreen, losing their leaves for a few weeks in summer. Others still, like Dryopteris felix-mas, the familiar Male Fern, will retain their fronds throughout a mild winter until they droop and fade with the unfurling of new growth in the spring.

The Victorians, those supreme collectors, relished ferns for the seemingly infinite variety of their frond- forms – everything from glossy tongues to the most delicate filigree, and created stumperies and glass houses to display them. I think modern gardeners are coming to appreciate ferns all over again. A plant doesn’t need a colourful flower, or indeed any flower at all, to be beautiful. Just pause for a moment to admire the polypody cascading out of the March hedgerow.

The Perennial Princess

For a good introduction to ferns read ‘The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns’ by Sue Olsen.
We have a large selection of ferns at Woodgate Nursery

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