Although not as popular as they once were, ferns are attractive foliage plants that can still provide a useful roll in the garden. They can be used as a green foil in shady damp areas, where little else will grow or as ground cover under trees and in woodland areas where the attractive bright green fronds provide an interesting contrast with other foliage.
There are basically two types of fern, hardy ferns that can be grown outdoors all year round, and tender ferns that can be grown under-glass or as houseplants. Hardy ferns can be used to transform awkward shady areas in the garden where few other plants thrive. They also make ideal partners for other shade loving species.
Ferns come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and varying shades of green. New fronds on certain species can appear in yellow, copper, bronze and other hues. There are roughly fifty fern species native to Great Britain, most of which are fully hardy in the garden. In general, hardy ferns need a humus rich moist soil but are happy in most habitats apart from very heavy soils or badly drained conditions. Most require a shady area and a relatively humid atmosphere to grow well, although there are a few varieties that are well adapted to dry conditions.
Hard Shield Fern
To show them off to their best ferns should be grown far enough apart to prevent the fronds from intermingling. Ideally they should be grown individually or in small groups, to allow the form and shape to be fully appreciated.