Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fern Thoughts for Spring

You know how every fall the car maintenance people talk about being 'winter-ready'? Well, I am spring-ready. Very. I've had enough snow and enough cold and it can be spring any time now, thanks.

By co-incidence, one of blogs I follow, Ailsa Francis' 'Hortus 2', has news about a new fern nursery in Nova Scotia. And she has an article in today's Ottawa Citizen about it, too. What could be more spring-like than ferns? Those wonderful unfolding croziers:

Those are Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamoneum,  fiddleheads. They are covered with soft white hairs and are very striking in the spring garden. When you see these, you know spring is really here! Did you also know that the fronds, which form very quickly after the fiddles unfurl, and can be up to 4 feet long, have soft downy hairs at the bases of each pinna? You can see them here, little tufts of white hairs:

It is our only native fern that has those, making identification very easy!

Another one that is easy to identify is Evergreen Wood Fern, Dryopteris intermedia. It has tiny glandular hairs all over the stipe, rachis and costae.

You can just see them here - tiny little white dots. If you inspect them with a hand lens you can see that each one is like a wee hat pin, a straight stalk with a little dot on top. You can sometimes feel them if you draw your hand gently along the back of the frond.

Then there is a native fern that has tiny bulblets on the fronds.... another one that has a delightful spicy scent...

Have I got you intrigued? Like to know more about ferns? (What is a stipe anyway?) Do come out to my fern garden and learn more about ferns! I'm planning a Fern Day on June 28, a Sunday. I'm not sure of all the details yet, but we'll definitely tour the garden and see ferns (I have most of the 39 or so native species although not all of them in the gardened area), there will be fern-related items for sale in Crabapple Gallery, there may be a fern-y snack, tea, who knows what else. (Check out the box in the sidebar for details.)

Or come out to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Two keen helpers and I have been busy installing ferns in the back of the Backyard Garden. It will be the W. J. Cody Memorial Fern Garden (or Trail or Walk, the name isn't totally decided yet) and will be officially opened some time this summer.  We hope to have all the native Ottawa Valley ferns that can be grown in a garden situation there, properly labelled and set off with native companion plants. Again, check the sidebar for details as they develop.

Ah, spring. A time to dream.... perchance of this:

I can hardly wait! Spring-ready! Yes!


  1. Ferns are such a wonderful addition to any woodland garden. I have quite a few varieties but have never met some of yours, your Cinnamon fern is so beautiful, I must see if it is available over here. Spring can't be far away, you must all be really fed up with the cold spells you are having, we see your snow on our news reports!

  2. Where do you live, Pauline? If you are in the US, there are a number of great fern nurseries, a quick Google will find them. If you are in Canada, I can send you one (or Fernwood can). It's a fine fern, crisp and green all summer. Well worth searching out! Good luck!