Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I was digging ferns in the forest today. Blechnum spicant, the beautiful native deer fern. I know I’m not suppose to collect from the wild, but let me explain, this ‘wild’ is about a 20 acre green belt around a faux-chateau subdivision. It was all forest until the 90”s, when the bulldozers scraped it clean, builders built houses, and landscapers laid sod.
Now luckily my client is a fern lover and this is a shady property. I’ve added many native ferns over the years and many non-native. It is in some ways a fern test garden for me. The only thing that failed was the New Zealand tree fern, Dicksonia antartica. Each time I go into the forest, my client owns part and has asked me to collect ferns and move them closer to the house, I am amazed at the abundance of ferns. In particular the Northwest giant Polystichum munitum, or sword fern. No matter how many it seems i take there are always more.
Years ago someone told me they planted fern hedges in Seattle. 2 days later I bought my train ticket and moved here. That is an exaggeration. But the idea of a climate where ferns thrived was enough to make me want to move here and eventually I did. That’s 20 year’s ago now and all that time my love of ferns has grown.
What is it about these flowerless plants that appeals to me?
It’s hard to say.
Their delicacy?
Their primeval silence?
I guess , as Boy George said, “ Love is never asking:Why?”

Sensitive fern ( Onoclea sensibilis ) growing rampantly in a wet meadow in Upstate New York. One of my favorites it spreads rapidly in moist ground even taking sun.

Sensitive fern turns this beautiful bronze in the Fall.

Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) this small evergreen fern is lovely in a shady rockery. My new favorite fern.