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A Dainty Fern And Heirloom Plants

A Dainty Fern And Heirloom Plants

By Holly Newby


    One of the plants we have had in our garden the longest is a Maidenhair fern. Also called by common names such as Southern maidenhair and venus-hairfern, it can be found growing in the wild of Florida from the Panhandle to the keys, anywhere limestone rocks and seeping water are found together.
    Imagine our surprise in going swimming in a sinkhole in Tallahassee many years ago, only to find ourselves climbing up walls of limestone covered in dangling maidenhair ferns.
    Widely cultivated as a house and patio plant, the maidenhair is tough and resilient, able to completely dry up and die and then seemly be resurrected from nothing.      While researching maidenhair ferns a bit, we discovered that they are not all created equally. This fern genius (Adiantum) which can be found from South America to China comes in many different species. The variety that we have is capillus-veneris, one that is common to Florida.
    The maidenhair fern makes a delicate and fairy-like pale yellow-green texture in the garden and is great around water features or other damp locations. We have a few in pots around the birdbath and they love a good shower from the visiting birds as they splash about taking their tubs.
    The maidenhair adds a lovely texture and foliage to shady gardens, under trees, and near structures. They are slow spreading.  We have some planted as ground cover in an area of an old oak stump. The plants require very little soil to thrive.
    These plants are very affordable and we located some in 3-inch pots, that were quite lovely for  $5 to $10. As far as care, we can only say we wack ours back with scissors to the pot edge in the late fall when they look poorly. Water it thoroughly, then let it dry out a little between drinks. A little shot of fertilizer once in a while will keep it going strong. They are just now putting out new spring growth. Looks like it is going to be a really mild winter this year.
    By the way, our maidenhair fern came from our Great Grandmother Hannah Morgan, who was born in 1875. It moved to Florida with her in the 1920s before the land bust, then back to Long Island, New York with my Grandmother for many years in the 1950s, then back to Florida for her retirement, then came to live at my house in Pittman 25 years ago. It is still going strong despite patchy care at best. Any plant that you can keep alive that many years is a winner. Go get yourself a maidenhair fern to enjoy this week. For best results, divide once a year and spread it to new pots or locations, they can kind of choke themselves out sometimes if the pot gets too full.
    Please send us pictures of your blooming plants and garden projects to hollynewby1@aol.com or mail them to P.O. Box 1099, Umatilla, FL 32784. We love to share the fun in the garden with others. Please send me a picture of what is in your garden this week to hollynewby1@aol.com. or drop a photo with your name on it by our office at 131 N. Central Avenue. Keep growing…