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Home > Types of Plants > Ferns
Ferns in Gardening
Ferns Ferns are a very ancient family of plants: early fern fossils predate the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. They are older than land animals and far older than the dinosaurs. They were thriving on Earth for two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved.

Ferns comprise of a very large family of genera and species. They are excellent house plants. The variety of shape, size and colour of foliage can merit a separate plant house called the fernery. most ferns are leafy plants that grow in moist areas under forest canopy. They are "vascular plants" with well-developed internal vein structures that promote the flow of water and nutrients. Unlike the other vascular plants, the flowering plants and conifers, where the adult plant grows immediately from the seed, ferns reproduce from spores and an intermediate plant stage called a gametophyte.

There are ferns suitable for tropical, sub tropical and temperate climates. They are not so fussy about climate as about position. The position should be moist well drained and shady. They hate direct exposure to sunshine and love lime and mortar and leaf mould. Their roots cling to mortar pieces and thrive well. They seldom revive satisfactorily once subjected to draught conditions. They are reluctant to accept a change of site. Therefore it is better to carry some soil form the original place.

Selaginellas, called creeping moss, grow under conditions of high humidity and existence of leaf mould similar to those of ferns and can be grown together. They are sometimes confused with ferns because of the resemblance o foliage. The distinguishing feature is that the stem of the selaginella bears four rows of scale like leaves and stems have a creeping habit. Their bright green foliage looks attractive in the rains.

Propagation. Ferns and selaginellas can be propagated by division of roots during the rains, in the plains and in spring in the hills. Ferns can also be multiplies by spores but this would be difficult for an amateur.

Soil mixture. An excellent soil mixture maybe one part each of loam, leaf mould, sand and broken pieces of charcoal and mortar pieces about 1.5. to 1.25 cm in size and half part farmyard manure, with a handful each of lime and ash per plant.

However well planned a garden maybe, there will be few gardens in which ferns do not flourish. Many of the loveliest fern varieties were originally found growing in the wild among their more prosaic relations. Others have originated as seedlings in the gardens or nurseries of growers. Some of these varieties are so fine and lacy in appearance that they rival the choicest exotic ferns that have to be nursed in heated greenhouses.

In common with most garden plants, hardy ferns will repay careful cultivation. The greatest attribute of hardy ferns is their undemanding nature. It is possible for some specimens to remain to remain undisturbed in the gardenfor twenty years or more, during which time an annual cutting away of the previous year`s fronds, occasional weeding and an autumn top dressing of leaf soil, sifted peat and wood ash at lbs per sq yard.

All kinds of ferns belong to one or other of two well-defined groups.

The first group bear their fronds in a circlet round a central crown or caudex, that is, in a shuttlecock or wastepaper basket-like arrangement. The male fern and the lady fern of the English countryside are typical examples.

The second group embraces all those with a creeping root system, which can be either slightly above ground level or just below the ground. Such plants usually scramble in all directions and require somewhat different conditions to those in the first group. Cultivation .

Choose a site which is not only protected from strong sunshine, but is also sheltered from strong spring winds which may damage the tender young fronds. Drought, especially during winter, is the greatest enemy of ferns. Careful preparation of the soil before planting is essential. Remember that ferns are woodland plants and in nature grow in a spongy carpet of rotted leaf and humus that has accumulated through the years. They cannot stand a heavy soil and neither do they like chalk. Dig the soil deeply, and incorporate with it a liberal supply of retentive organic material so that food and moisture are conserved. Rotted garden compost, peat or peat moss litter spent moss hops or well rotted leaves are ideal.
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