Wednesday, April 2, 2014

History of The Fern & Moss Garden

As part our 25th Anniversary this year, we're trying to capture and share more historical details about the gardens and I'll be occasionally featuring little snippets regarding the development of specific gardens.  Today I'll describe the development of the Fern & Moss Garden at RBG which is almost 11 years old (early summer, 2003 completion).  Above is a photo of a portion of this space which features one of the largest fern collections in the country with over 250 different selections. The garden also features a display of native WI mosses.  I'll talk more about this garden later in this blog.
It was a beautiful day with sunshine, blue skies and a temperature around 45 degrees F by the afternoon.  It looks like rain/sleet combinations over the coming days but I was happy to get another day of progress out in the gardens today with both grounds staff and volunteers.  Pat worked on painting and then shifted to pruning some of our larger crabapples (Malus sp.).  Big John and Terry spent a good portion of the day removing some of our elevated and repurposed planters from the former All-America Selections (AAS) garden.  The AAS garden is shifting to the "Pollinator's Paradise" and the Thomas Jefferson Collection will be installed in the coming weeks in this space.  The guys did a nice job getting these elements out and also dabbled with some other projects including bringing in more elements of the Holiday Light Show (HLS).  Cheryl was in for a half day with more garden clean-up and Janice was in briefly for some projects.  We had a nice volunteer turnout today.  Bob C. went out for garden clean-up efforts along pathways and Kay continued her tidying focus in and around the shade garden.  Jumbo Jim and Stan were working in the Japanese garden and also brought down some RECAPPER assistance.  Patrea finished processing our plant sale tags while Gena, Myrt and Nancy did a nice job painting obelisks along with Dr. Gredler.   Maury was also in to run some errands. 
The original site for the Fern & Moss Garden can be seen above.  The site was covered in buckthorn (Rhamnus), honeysuckle (Lonicera) and other undesireable plants that needed to be cleared first.  The idea for this type of garden style came from our founder, Dr. Robert Yahr.  He knew this space was already damp and shaded with many large trees in the vicinity and asked me what I thought regarding a fern collection.  This small space (1/8 acre) was also prime real estate being next to the Japanese Garden.  I was all in favor of developing that space and have always liked ferns so it was a "green light" from there.  Dr. Yahr supported the project financially as the primary donor along with other family members.  When we walked the site, we both thought that a layout complimenting the adjacent Japanese garden would be appropriate.  I did the design for the garden which ultimately consisted of a waterfall, meandering stream, bridges and a lower pool.  Dr. Yahr had the idea for a Japanese structure (Ma Chii', spelling?)  which was ultimately added.  Scott Petranek, a local landscaper, skilled carpenter, etc., was hired to build the garden and along with minimal staff assistance and primarily RECAPPER help, developed the garden in about 2 months in the spring of 2003.  We created mounded planting beds (see below) edged with rock to provide appropriate soil for our ferns which have always been grouped by "region of origin."  We have a collection of North American natives, Asiatic ferns and European ferns as well.  There are some odds and ends and beyond these fern plantings, the development of the moss island was fun.  Using moss found on sight, Jenny and Janice created the moss island which is literally surrounded by the stream as it flows to the lower pool.  Stepping stones and a "slab bridge" of limestone provide visitor access and the garden includes other accents like benches, Japanese lanterns and plenty of beautiful rock work.  The spring of 2008 was a wet one with much of the lowest gardens at RBG being under water for over 2 months.  This included almost half of the fern & moss garden and necessitated the replanting of many ferns.  We continue to display, observe and improve our fern collection in this beautiful space.  RBG is a member of the Hardy Fern Foundation and we are a display garden for that organization as well.  See some of the photos and captions below regarding the development of this garden space.
early site after clearing scrub
early rock work
fern beds are prepared and later lined with rocks
almost ready for planting (May, 2003)
our Grumpies getting a bridge made (note the scaffolding in the back for the future Ma Chii')
the Ma Chii' was built by Scott Petranek and RECAPPERS from the Rock County Jail
July of 2003
last year (moss island in the foreground)
Jenny (left) and Janice with the original moss island
my daughter and nephews enjoying the space
Dale S. ("Mr. Moss") reworking the moss bed in 2012
more topography with the upgraded moss island
same as above
moss island in early March (2014)
criss-cross lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina 'Vernoniae Cristata')
Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) - we have over 20 varieties of painted ferns
spring shot years ago
spring shot
Ma Chii' with tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) and other plantings

No comments: