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Vermont Garden Journal: All About Ferns

The Fern Lover's Companion
In this week's Vermont Garden Journal, Charlie Nardozzi talks about the beautiful, versatile and overlooked fern.

This plant is millions of years old, predating dinosaurs. It's name means feathers because it has divided and delicate leaves. Historically people has believed this plant can provide good luck, protect you from lightning and give you magical qualities such as invisibility. What common plant is this? It's the fern.

We tend to overlook ferns in the landscape because they're so common. We have many beautiful native ferns in our forests. Many ferns are great additions to shade gardens for their leaf texture and aggressive growth. While many gardeners know of the ostrich fern (for harvesting fiddleheads), maidenhair fern and deer fern, there are others that are more rare.

The cinnamon fern is a 3- to 4-foot tall, shade lover known, not just for its lush green leaves, but the cinnamon colored fronds that emerge in June. It gives this fern a flowering look, which of course, ferns don't do because they reproduce by spores.

Many gardeners are familiar with the low growing, Japanese Painted fern for its showy, silvery leaves. A hybrid version, called 'Bradford Beauty', is a cross between a painted fern and a lady fern. It features 2 foot tall plants with silver leaves and red stems. It brightens up any dark spot in the garden.

'Dre's Dagger' is a dwarf lady fern that grows 18 inches tall. It features striking, criss-crossed fern leaves with crested tips. 

There are even ferns that grow well in full sun, such as 'Sun Maiden'. This 1 to 3 foot tall maidenhair fern hybrid loves the light. Also, there is a climbing fern. This rare fern can twine up to 8 feet tall and grows in wet, acidic conditions.

And now for this week's tip, if you are giving or getting cut flowers for Valentine's Day, remember to re-cut the stems under water, place them in warm water changing it every few days, and mix in some sugary solution, such as 7-up soda, and an acidifier, such as apple cider vinegar, to help the flowers last longer.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about unique potatoes. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Growing Ferns

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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