Gardening Magazine

Japanese Fern Border

By Patientgardener @patientgardener
Athyrium 'Burgundy Lace'

Athyrium ‘Burgundy Lace’

I mentioned in my last post that I had created a new border – the Japanese fern border.

My patio is quite shady on the garden size and is edged with a long narrow border which is backed by a 4ft wall which holds up the rest of the garden.  The border is divided in two by the greenhouse.  The longer section is my spring border which was featured in last year’s  End of Month View.  I haven’t really mentioned the shorter border as I have been unhappy with it.  The short section is also overshadowed by a prostrate rosemary which is growing on top of the wall and this makes the border quite shady.

The soil in the border is excellent due to 9 years of me adding compost, wood chip and other stuff.  It is also very free draining but doesn’t dry out quickly which actually means that I have some of that elusive moist free draining soil that all the plant books talk about.


Anyway, back last January I visited Ashwood Nurseries and was lucky enough to have a tour of John Massey’s garden.  There was a small fern border by his front door which looked great despite it being January and this planted a seed of an idea.  Then I was chatting with Victoria about ferns and she suggested I plant them in the short border.  It is after all just the right conditions.  I already have many ferns in the garden which I wanted to add to and I decided I needed a focus for the ferns in the new border.  A bit of research lead me to decide that it should be planted with Japanese ferns.  I already had a Japanese Holly Fern in the border so this made sense.  Also my favorite ferns – Athyriums or Painted ferns  – are Japanese so it was a no brainer.

Buying plants for this border has led to some interesting and amusing conversations with nurseryman at Malvern Spring show and Spetchley plant fair.  Asking for recommendations of Japanese ferns was a good opening of a conversation and that I find is often the hardest bit when talking to nurseryman.  Once you show more interest than where do I plant this you can have some fabulous conversations as they know you are really interested.

Polystochum Tsus-simense

Polystochum Tsus-simense

Anyway, I have now added Cyrtomium fortunei, Polystichum Tsus-simense, Polystichum polyblepharum and Athryium Burgandy Lace to the border.  Also in the border are some perennials which I haven’t decided whether to relocate yet including: Disporopsis undulata, Impatiens omeiana and Cautelya spicata ‘Arun Flame’.  I think they will add a nice contrast to the ferns but we will see.  I might do a bit of research to see where they originate from to see if they nicely fit my theme but I know that the Cautelya is from Nepal so this is already going off target!

Interestingly my youngest doesn’t like this border as he says it is dull and lacking height and variety.  I am wondering if he is right.  Whilst there are differences in the textures and colours of the foliage the structure of the plants is still the same so there is possibly not enough variety but we shall see how it pans out.

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