Earlier this month, a friend asked me to help her design a few plantings along a pathway through a wooded part of her land here in Greenwood. Wooded areas are often difficult to plant in, as you need low-maintenance, deer-resistant, full-shade plants. Hopefully she’ll be pleased when I show up in a few weekends with a truck-bed full of medium-sized stones and a mix of unique ferns, including Japanese painted ferns and my favorite fern, the Athyrium ‘Okanum.’
As most gardeners well know, not many plants do well in full shade. Ferns are a great exception to this, though, and as shade gardening is becoming more and more popular with each passing season, ferns are gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds. Part of the appeal of hardy ferns is the simple fact that they do so well in shade, but another huge point in their favor is the amazing diversity they present. There is a fern for almost any shade area in your garden, from drought-resistant ferns to some moisture-loving examples that will thrive in constantly damp areas that will destroy almost any other plant. They range broadly in color from the traditional green to the stunning Japanese painted ferns, which can be red, purple, silver, green, or any combination thereof.
Hardy ferns are also a great choice because they’re so easy to care for. If you are careful to consider soil type when choosing your ferns, often they’ll do just fine with very little work out of you, which is great for those difficult-to-fill border plantings, or even for planting areas along pathways through wooded areas. Most ferns are also deer-resistant, so that won’t be a problem in planting areas that get less traffic, like my friend’s pathway, though I hope that, once I’ve planted those beds, it will get a lot more visits this year.