“Ferns”  Fifty Shades of Green by Colin Ward

On Tuesday 15th March there was a buzz of excitement in the Village Hall.  After two years we were back!  We had an excellent turnout of members and visitors – we    welcomed familiar faces and new people.  Colin Ward from Swines Meadow Farm Nursery joined us to talk about ferns.  He specialises in shade and woodland plants and his nursery is one of the UK’s leading growers of exotic and rare plants …

Colin started his talk by illustrating the part that ferns have played in history and world culture.  As the fern emerges into growth we recognise the crosier.  It is the staff with the curved top – the crosier that is the symbol of the Good Shepherd and is carried by bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and some European Lutheran churches as an insignia of their ecclesiastical office.  Ferns are native to New Zealand and the All Blacks Rugby team logo features a leaf from a silver fern.  The silver fern was also a symbol of bravery, sacrifice and allegiance when the New Zealand Army wore it during the Boer War at the turn of the century.  The fern is engraved on the tombstones of those New Zealanders who fell during both World Wars.  Maori tattoos often depict ferns and a fully unfolded fern frond means life and tranquility and is a symbol of Maori pride.

We learnt about fern propagation techniques, all of which are practised by Colin, and he provided photographs to illustrate the various ways in which ferns can be increased.  Growing ferns from spores may take many years so patience is needed. As the spores, which are found on the underside of the leaves, ripen they change colour and it is at the green stage when they should be captured, if they have reached their brown stage that is too late.  Colin grows them on in a sterilised, very wet peat compost.  Some ferns propagate through bulbils.  These are nodules on the leaf that grow into a new plant but this will take many months.  Ferns produce either rhizomes or crowns and so can be propagated by division and the best time to do this is in the Spring.

Colin continued his talk by outlining the attributes of the very many different types of fern – too numerous to mention in this report but there is clearly something for everyone.  Deciduous or evergreen, shade loving or those which will tolerate some sun,   indoors, or outdoors, from huge tree ferns to the tiny Asplenium trichomanes, the maidenhair spleenwort, growing in wall crevasses.  An interesting observation was made about ferneries, Colin suggested that ferns should not necessarily be grown on their own but should be mixed with other plants, for example hostas or aspidistras, as this will give a mix of foliage which will enhance the overall look of a fernery.  Colin concluded his talk by supporting the use of mycorrhizal fungi when planting ferns, feeding with a seaweed based fertiliser,  using crushed volcanic rock mixed with compost or as a top dressing and the use of a garlic solution to deter slugs and snails.

Many thanks to Colin for a very comprehensive talk and for bringing a collection of beautiful, healthy ferns and others plants for our members to purchase.

Please join us next month on Tuesday 19th April when Dr Twigs Way will be outlining the history of women in the garden.  Her talk is entitled “Virgins, Weeders and Queens”.  Details can be found on our website.  The meeting will be open to all members, new members and visitors.   
                                                                                                          Linda Truscott 
New members and visitors are always welcome. 
For more information contact: Linda Truscott on 01234 270747


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