“No plants may be naturalized with more charming effect than ferns… There are few kinds of gardening more interesting than naturalizing the fine hardy ferns of North America.”  So wrote William Robinson, the hugely influential English gardener, in The Wild Garden, first published in 1870 and still well worth reading today.

Ferns are so varied that collecting them can become a lifetime obsession.  Think how the stateliness of emerging Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) contrasts with the delicacy of Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), that in turn so different from the fresh broad blades of the Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis).  And there are dozens more that will grow well for us here in the northeast.

Ferns are perfect to help create a sense of peace, coolness and tranquility.

A tough native fern with a delicate texture:  Athyrium 'Lady in Red'.

A tough native fern with a delicate texture: Athyrium ‘Lady in Red’.

While most of them need shade and at least average soil moisture, there are a few, like Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctiloba) that will tolerate some sun and drier soils.  But their easiest culture, and greatest beauty, is achieved under trees and near water, where they will thrive with no care whatsoever once established.

At Pondside we carry as many kinds as we can get hold of.  Our plant advisors can help you sort out the rampant colonizers, useful for naturalizing, from the mannerly clumpers that will stay put and compliment your other shade perennials.  And compliment they do… there is nothing like the laciness of a fern to provide much needed counterpoint to the bold leaves of many shade plants like hostas, ligularias, rodgersias and the like.


One of our best sellers, the Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, looks terrific mixed with perennials that have dark foliage or purple flowers.

So whether you have a large property with areas ideal for bold sweeps of soothing green, or a shady town garden with only enough space to tuck in a couple of things here and there, give the ferns a try… we think you’ll be hooked!