I have a very tricky patch in the New Garden, so called because we dug it out about seven years ago from what had been the tumble-down site of a barn. There were no remnants of the barn there, but there were snakes, other living things and a lot of river rocks as well as some generally ghastly thin soil. One diagonal half sits in the shade of the open barn all year round, the sun can only make it past the walls for a very short time in high summer, and the other half roasts as it looks both South and West with no cover at all. So, sticking with my theme of working with what I’ve got and not fighting it, it has taken a good while to make an impression on the shady half. For a very long time, the only show in town was my Rosa ‘Reine Marguerite d’Italie’ which I have discussed at length in my post on tough roses. She does deserve a photo though.
But last year, I decided to try and see if I could establish some ferns, as well as a cruelly transplanted, but now doing fine, Mahonia which was already quite big. So, last year, they all made it, through a very wet spring, a very hot and dry summer and a middling cold winter. I bought them small, on the grounds that this always gives them a better fighting chance, especially in a pretty rubbish spot. And I tried to select varieties that can cope with wet and dry. This spring I also added some low-lying groundcover planting, which so far is doing ok. I am aiming for a green-ness that is both resting and as lush as such a tricky corner can be. Here are the ferns coming back to life in the last couple of weeks- admittedly, it’s not so great in the winter, but as they mature, I live in hope.
‘The King’ is a magical fern. This year, I think it might get close to a metre high and wide, and the splayed fronds have extra finger shapes on them, which make them look like something out of Tolkein. You can see this in the tallest frond in the photograph above.
Dryopteris atrata is a busy bee of a fern. Not so tall, about 0.5m high and wide, it nevertheless has an energetic presence with its upright posture, and slender but strong fronds. It wants to be noticed, and the darkness of the new growth is lovely as a contrast with the yellow-green of the foliage. I really like it.
This Polystichum is almost cuddly with its soft, fluffy new foliage. This now looks more like a normal fern, but two weeks ago, I would have almost called it ‘adorable’. It drapes beautifully from the centre and almost poses for the camera. It will make about 0.75m high and wide this year, I think.
Now, ok, this isn’t a fern, but this is one of my new groundhuggers, the strangely named Euonymus fortunei ‘Wolong Ghost’. Right now, it is a bit junior, but it’s looking good as you can see, threads of sliver veined slender leaves and it will weave its way around. I am sure I will be impressed.
And here is Osmunda regalis, which I wanted to include as it is a splendid fern, stately and refined. However, it is a bit of a cheat as it is actually growing in the shady ground by our canal or ruisseau. It would certainly struggle round in the New Garden as it likes more lush conditions, but I love it anyway.