Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Ghost Fern

All the photos included here (mine) are of the 'Ghost' fern (Athyrium hybrida 'Ghost') which has quickly become one of my favorites to use around the part/dappled shade garden. This fern is a hybrid between the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) and the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Originally found in the Virginia garden of Nancy Swell many years ago, this perennial fern (hardy to zone 4) offers the best features of both of its parents. The 'Ghost' fern offers the silvering and burgundy highlights of the painted fern parent as well as the height and adaptability of the lady fern genetics. Maximum height of this fern is around 30" or so whereas most Japanese painted fern varieties are only 15" tall. It's important to note the variability in the coloration of this fern in these shots. Those images where the fronds seem a bit more "greenish silver" were taken before mid-summer. Those that look more silver were taken later in the year. We probably have 50 or so 'Ghost' ferns out in the gardens and they pair well with hostas, false-forget-me-not (Brunnera), barrenworts (Epimedium) and other shade-tolerant perennials. The silver contribution of this fern in shadier locations offers "illumination" and interest to a garden setting that does become more dependent on foliage contributions of both color and texture. This fern prefers moist, rich, well-drained soils but is fairly adaptable as a specimen or groundcover in tougher locations. In future blogs, I'll mention the wide range of Japanese painted ferns and varieties of importance. There are also other hybrids (same parents as 'Ghost') that have some other interesting features and I'll discuss them later as well.

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